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Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers

J. B. He aton

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2 ,(4 4 ;

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N ew Edi ti on Consultant editors: Jeremy Harmer and Roy Kingsbury

London and New York

.ongrnan Group UK Limited

nd Associated Companies throughout the world.

gman House, Burnt Mill, Harlow, ssex CM20 2.1E, England

in the United States of America v Longman Inc., New York

a retrieval system, r transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, r otherwise, without the prior written permission of the Publisher

=first published 1975 Third impression 1990 TRITISH LIBRARY CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION DATA eaton, J. B.

gman handbooks for language teachers). 1. English language Study and teaching Foreign speakers 2. English language Ability testing I. Title 428.2'4'076 PEI128.A2

SBN 0-582-00237-0

RY OF CONGRESS CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION DATA eaton, J. B. (John Brian) Writing English language tests. Includes index. Foreign speakers. 2. English language xaminations Authorship. 3. English language Ability testing. I. Title. II. Series. E1128.A2H394 1988 428.076 87-5273 in Times Roman

ngman handbooks for language teachers) Bibliography: p.

ed by Longman Group (FE) Ltd. i-inted in Hong Kong iustrated by David Parkins


Faye Hartfield and Holly L. Jacobs (Newbury -louse) Copyright ? 1983 by Newbury House Publishers Inc; the author, Rosalind Hawkins, Thief Examin

ptember 1969; and the following examination -oards for permission to reproduce questions from past examination papers: Joint

H 1


1 Introduction to language testing

41 5 4.5 Constructing rearrangement items 4.6 Constructing comple 5 1.1 Testing and teaching 4 2 4.7 Constructing transformation items 46 6 1.2 Why test? 4.8 Constructing items involving the 1.3 What should be tested and to 48 what standard? 7 changing of words 1.4 Testing the language skills 8 4.9 Constructing 'broken sentence' items 49 4.10 Constructin 9 1.5 Testing language areas matching items 49 1.6 Language skills and language

elements 10 4.11 Constructing combination and addition items 50 [1] 1.7 Recognition and production 12 1.8 Problems of sampling 51 14 5 Testing vocabulary 1.9 Avoiding traps for the students 51
2 Approaches to language testing items 5.1 Selection of 2.1 BackgroUnd


-- 56 15 58 The Multiple choice items (A) 5.3 Multiple-choice items (B) 5.4 Sets (associated wor 15 5.2 essay-translation approach The structuralist approach 58 15 5.6 More objective items 5.7 Completion items 60 16 2.4 The integrative approach 2.5 The communicative approach 62 19
25 6 Listening comprehension tests 64

3 Objective testing

6.1 General 64 3.1 Subjective and objective testing 25 6 26 3.2 Objective tests 68 6.2 Phoneme discrimination27 tests 6.3 Tests of stress and intonation 6.4 Statem 3.3 Multiple-choice items: general 69 3.4 Multiple-choice items: the stem/ the correct option/the distractors 30 6.5 Testing comprehension through visual matei-iii:s 71 33 3.5 Writing the test 6.6 Understanding talks and 34 lectures 82 4 Tests of grammar and usage 34 4.1 Introduction 7 Oral production tests 88 4.2 Multiple-choice grammar items: 7.1 Some difficulties in testing the 34 item types speaking skills 88 4.3 Constructing multiple-choice items 37 7.2 Reading aloud 89 4.4 Constructing error-recognition 90 multiple-choice items 39 7.3 Conversational exchanges

10 Criteria and types of tests 159 7.4 Using pictures for assessing oral 10.1 Validity 92 159 production 10.2 Reliability 162 96 7.5 The oral interview 164 7.6 Some other techniques for oral 10.3 Reliability versus validity 10.4 Discrimination 165 102 examining 10.5 Administration 167 10.6 Test instructions to the 105 8 Testing reading comprehension candidate 168 8.1 The nature of the reading skills 105 170 10.7 Backwash effects 8.2 Initial stages of reading: 10.8 Types of tests 171 107 matching tests 8.3 Intermediate and advanced-- - --- -.. 174 stages of reading: matching tests 11011 Interpreting test scores 174 8.4 True/false reading tests 113 11.1 Frequency distribution 175 8.5 Multiple-choice items (A): short 11.2 Measures of central tendency 11.3 Measures of dispersion 176 texts 116 11.4 Item analysis 178 8.6 Multiple-choice items (B): 185 longer texts 117 11.5 Moderating 185 11.6 Item cards and banks 124 8.7 Completion items 8.8 Rearrangement items 129 Selected bibliography 8.9 Cloze procedure 131 188 8.10 Open-ended and miscellaneous Index 191 133 items 133 8.11 Cursory- reading' 9 Testing the writing skills 9.1 The writing skills 9.2 Testing composition writing

135 135 136 138 etting the composition 9.4 Grading the composition 144 149 atment of written errors 9.6 Objective tests: mechanics 150 9.7 Objective tests: style and register 152 9.8 Controlled writing 154

the correct boxes below after listening to the programme. R e m e m b e r t o c o n c e n t r a t e o n ly o n t h e i nf o rm a t i o n a p pr o pr i a t e t o t h e place w

N o t r a v e l pr o bl e m s A f e w t r a v e l pr o bl e m s S e r i ou s t r a v e l pr ob l e m s Sunny


Fine but cloudy Rain G o o d ho t e l s

Introduction to language testing

1.1 Testing and Poor teaching hotels


A v e r a g e ho t e l s

ld without being constantly concerned with the other. Tests may be constructed primarily as devices to reinforce lear

ge. and public such examinations undoubtedly exert a a more beneficial influence on syllabuses and teaching strategies than estsIn this sense,examinations, in fact, may exert such farconsiderable influence on the average teacher that they are oft
the test.

have a more useful effect on the learning of a particular language than a mechanical test of structure. In the past even 1.2 Why test?
st be emphasised that the evaluation of student performance for purposes of comparison or selection is only one of the functions

and teaching and should generally result in improved learning habits.

chief purpose of testing in schools.

Compare the effect of the following two types of test items on the teaching o k 1You will now hear a short talk. Listen carefully and complete the
following paragraph by writing one word on each line: If you go to However, it will at the not be as bad as at most portersareon asthe

) 2 will now hear a short difficulties. Unless the teacher is able to identify and analyse thethe talk, student makes in handling A, B targe dent's weaknesses and weather and travel report on the radio. Before you listen to errors a choose one of the places the or C Place A - Southern Spain (by air). Place B - Northern France (by car). Place C- Switzerland (by rail).

is concerned with evaluation for the purpose of enabling teachers to increase their own effectiveness by making adjustments in the

ign learner difficulties or which. for some reason. have been glossed over. In such cases the teacher will be concerned w

when planning remedial or further teaching.

-constructed classroom test will provide the students with an opportunity to show their ability to perform certain task :

1.3 W hat should be test ed and t o what st andard?

tive grammars: linguists are examining the whole complex system of language skills and patterns of linguistic behavio

Without this kind of context, language may lose much of its meaning.

f learners of foreign language? For example, should foreign language learners after a certain number of months or years

constitute mistakes when belonging to native speakers? What, indeed, `correct' English?

sayists and critics. In imitating f language examinations of written English, however, second language examinations have

uage are often broadly defined as listening, listening and speaking, reading and writing. In many situations where English language skills be carefully integrated and used to perform as many genuinely 1 i

1.4 Teeting the

s which test the ability to understand and respond appropriately to polite requests, advice, instructions, etc. woul


i omprehension of unimportant and irrelevant details. Above all, there would be no rigid distinction drawn between the used to provide the basis for a related test of writing or speaking.

skill which is more closely associated with examinations and answering techniques than with the ability to read or s

Ways of assessing performance in the four major skills may take the form of tests of: talks and lectures are given to the testees; - speaking ability, usually in the form of an interview, a picture description, role play_ and a problem-solving task involving pair work or group work; -reading comprehension, in which questions are set to test the students' ability to understand the gist of a text and to extract key information on specific points in the text; and

-listening (auditory) comprehension, in which short utterances, dialogues,

- writing ability, usually in the form of letters, reports, memos, messages, instructions, and accounts of past events, etc.

I t writers still consider that their purpose can best be achieved if each separate skill can be measured on its own.

1.5an attempt to In Testing langula isolate the language areas learnt, a considerable number of tests inclu

grammar and usage, vocabulary (concerned with word meanings, word formation and collocations); - phonology (concerned with phonemes, stress and intonation).

Tests of grammar and These tests measure students' ability to recognise appropriate grammatical forms and to ma

'Although it (1)

quite warm

now, (2)

later today. By tomorrow morning, it (3) there may even be a little snow ... (etc.)

will Chang: much colder and


()A . ()A.

seems B. will seem C. seemed D. had seemed weather B. the weatherC. a weather D. some weather (3) A. is B. will go to.be C. is going to beD. would be (etc.)

s are required to select the correct answer from a choice of several answers. (Only one answer is normally correct fo


l grammar tests, however, need comprise multiple-choice items. The following completion item illustrates just one of sev


I think his

does Victor Luo ? flat is on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.



of vocabulary

ive vocabulary (the words they should be able to use in speaking and in writing) or their passive vocabulary (the word

In the following item students are instructed to circle the letter at the side of the word whichbest completesthe sentence. Did you A. beg that book from the school library? B. borrow C. hire D. lend E. ask


common type of vocabulary test students are given a passage to read and required to replace certain words listed at
Tests of phonology

honology might attempt to assess the following sub-skills: ability to recognise and pronounce the significant sound c 9

language, and ability to hear and produce the melody or patterns of the tunes of a language (i.e. the rise and fall of the voice).

In the following item, students are required to indicate which of the three sentences they hear are the sam

Just look at that large ship over there. Just look at that large sheep over there. Just look at that large ship over


in certain tests, is now very rarely included as a separate item in public examinations, it is sometimes appropriate for inc elementary level. Successful performance in this field, however, should not bcr - 1._-ta-r-a-ed--as necessarily indicating an-ability to speak. _
1.6 Language skills and language elements

f the test. If the students have been learning English for only a relatively brief period, it highly likely that we shall be i

and to pre-test items. However at all levels but the most elementary, it is generally ,

nate between the phonemes /i:/ and /0 Even if they are confused by a testee and he or she says Look at that sheep sailin

called 'redundancies' which help to overcome problems of this nature.

d as being proficient in a language simply because he or she is able to discriminate between two sounds or has mas communication in situations which simulate real life is the best test of mastery of a language. It can thus be argued th fluency in English a at

bility to understand what he or she hears and reads can best be measured by tests which evaluate performance in language skills used in real life.

communicative teaching b of the language. There is also at present insufficient knowledge about the weighting wh


ronouns? Such a question cannot be answered until we know more

1.7 Recognition and

a-t the degrees of importance of the various ele


Methods of n testing the recognition of correct words and forms of pr oduc t io

I've been standing here A. since B. during

often take the follo

Choose the correct answer and write A, B, C or D. half an hoar. D. for C. while

est item tests students' ability to recognise the correct form: this ability is obviously not quite the same as the ability t of item has the advantage of being easy to examine statistically.

If the four choices were omitted, the item would come closer to being a test o Complete each blank
I've been standing here with the correct word. half an hour.

wer, but production items do not always guarantee that students will deal with the specific matter the examiner had in me (e.g.

since 2.30, since Christmas).

testing recognition and testing production. In the first, students are instructed to choose the best reply in List B for each

List B (i) List A 1. What's the forecast for a Soon after lunch, I think. tomorrow? 2. Would you like t o go swimming? b We can t ake our umbrellas. c All afternoon. 3. Where shall we go? d Yes, that's a good idea.



4. Fine. What time shall we Now long shall we spend there? shall we do if it rains?

e It'll be quite hot. f Now about Clearwater Bay?

(ii) Write B's part in the following dialogue. 1. A: What's the forecast for tomorrow? a: It'll be quite hot.



Would you like to

go 11


Where shall we go? s: (etc.)


ain either recognition-type items or production-type items, or a combination of both. Each type has its unique function 1.8 Problems of sampling

nowledge (i.e. content) as in other subjects like geography, physics, etc. Although the construction of a language tes 0 level where the syllabus is not clearly defined is much more difficult.

t to spend several hours being tested and indeed this would be undesirable both for the tester and the testees. But t

and representative section of those areas and skills it is desired to test.

e followed the same learning programme, we can simply choose areas from this programme, seeking to maintain a careful lexical items, etc. Above all, the kind of language to be tested would be the language used in the classroomandthe students' immediate in surroundings or the language required for the school or the work for which the student is being assessed.

m in the test, particularly in those sections of the test concerned with the language elements. The following two exam

Write down A, B, C, 0 or E according to the best alternative needed to complete the sentence. Television

only for the last fifty years. D. existed E. is existing

A exists B. was existing C. has existed

confusion in the use of look for; it is directed chiefly at Arabic and Chinese learners of English. The word fetched has

been taken of the difficulty many Chinese learners experience as a result of the lack of distinction in Mandarin betwe

'Here's your book, John. You left it on my desk.' 'Thanks. I've it everywhere.' A. looked for B. fetched C. found D. attended to E. watched.over

anguage. It will scarcely matter then if students from certain language areas find it easier than others: in actual langu


which most easily lend themselves to being tested. It may be helpful for the teacher to draw up a rough inventory of t

concord (10 per cent), the infinitive of purpose (10 per cent).

g to adopt a more communicative approach to language testing might consider the following specifications in the light o

nventories which can be drawn up beforehand and are not intended to represent a particular set of priorities.) In ev


programme. It is clearly unfair to administer a test devised entirely along communicative lines to those students 0
1.5 Ave"

trees for itic eilminets

I e setting of deliberate traps or pitfalls for unwary students should be avoided. Many testers, themselves, a grammatical and vocabulary items which have never been taught. .,

i them into making--- choice B or D. When this item actually appeared in a test, it was found that the more profici f the less proficient students, who had not learnt to associate the perfect tense forms with since and for, chose i
When I met Tim yesterday, it was the first time I Christmas. C. had seen A. saw B. have seen D. have been seeing him since 1

s too simple to be right. Many of these students selected the response `saturation' since they knew vaguely

The animals tried to find

lake. A. sanitation C. saturation D. salutation B. safety

from the fire by running into the

ng out what students know not of trapping them. By attempting to construct effective language tests, the teache learning processes involved. Pirtcs and referenees

ge, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey) and the Michigan Test of English Language Proficiency (University of Mi

d. Robert Lado (Language Testing, Longman 1961, 1964) was one of the first to develop the multiple-choice technique in testing th ) Id

A p fro .ch --s tolanguage testing

2.1 Background

in chronological. order, they should not be regarded as being strictly confined to certain periods in the developme

2.2 The essay translation approach


(often in the form of comments about the language being learnt). The tests also have a heavy literary and cultural bias. P

This approach is characterised by the view that language learning is chiefly concerned with the systematic acquisit

2.3 The structuralist approach

work of structural linguistics, in particular the importance of contrastive an

aatnteedieyma rtere aeoe nys d net n eseens srt ls h o fd uhla r tyh a dt i ' m f

letely divorced from any context on the grounds that a larger sample of language forms can be covered in the test in a

thing at a time.

ucturalist approach are, of course, still valid for certain types of test and for certain purposes. For example, the desire t 15

holly independent of the ability to read long and complicated instructions or verbal stimuli) is commendable in certain approach which merit consideration when calrictructing any good test.

hat such traditional examinations as essay writing are highly subjective and unreliable. As a result, the need for sta i

statistical analysis. At this point, however, the danger of confusing methods of testing

unicative testing. There is still a limited use for multiple-choice items in many communicative tests, especially for reading


2.4 The Int Wive

T )

n designed to assess the learner's ability to use two or more skills simultaneously. Thus, integrative tests are concerned

testing and of dictation. Oral interviews, translation and essay writing are also included in many integrative tests a po narrow a view of integrative testing. The principle of doze testing is based on the Gestalt theory of `closure' (closing gaps in patterns subconsciously). Thus, doze tests dr's ability to 'interrupted' or 'mutilated' messages decode 1

E sually every fifth, sixth or seventh word), and students have to complete each gap in the text, using the most appropr

surroundedby of Themark student's behaviour is sampling errors. One sample of occasion in response to one sample on exhibited possibly marked by one other. Each setbyone the sampling errors is error almost added tothe others, the total However, of possible itself. sampling errors becomes significant.


The text used for the doze test should be long enough to allow a reasonable number of deletions ideally 40 or 50 blanks. The more blank contained in the text, the more reliable the doze test will generally prove There are two methods of scoring a doze test: one mark may be awarded for each acceptable answer or else one mark may be awarded fo

me araue that the former method is very little better than the latter and does not really justify the additional work enta

the student if any reasonable equivalent is accepted. In addition. no student should be penalised for missp

that it cannot be understood. Grammatical errors, however, should be penalised in those doze tests which ar with the grammar of the language rather than reading.

d which requires them to write the deleted items on a separate answer sheet or list. If the text chosen for a doze

h content and language variety used. Finally. it is always advantageous to provide a 'lead-in': thus no deletions should

Cloze procedure as a measure of reading difficulty and reading

chapter on testing reading comprehension. Research studies, however, have shown that performance on doze tests co

general linguistic ability, including the ability to use language appropriately according to particular linguistic and

ssfully on a doze test: linguistic knowledge, textual knowledge, and knowledge of the world.= As a result of such-resea classroom placement tests and diagnostic tests.

ntil fairly recently. The integrated skills involve in tests of dictation include auditory discrimination, the auditory memory

each error in the dictation is usually penalised in exactly the same way.

can prove good predictors of global language ability even though some recent research' has found that dictation tend


ort in the mother-tongue based on Listening to specialist subject English. case, the test writer should constantly information presented in In this being preferable to the dictation of lectures word groups (i.e. three five words a time) as in the traditional dicta shorter to at I
Reading textbooks and journals


Con 2.5 The t r ib u t in g t o s e m i n a r di s c u processing of the message heard. the constructive s s i on s communicative Writing laboratory reports no close relationship between the sounds of a language and the symbols representing them, it may be possible to und approach Writing a thesis

a without being able to write it down. However, in concerned primarily is relationship between the sound en the two approaches. Communicative tests areEnglish, where there viewfairly closewith how language is used in com From this approach, a new and interesting (if not totally) of assessment I ker to score less than a non-native speaker on a test of English for Specific Purposes - say, on a study skills test of M .." ng of what is spoken. Indeed, some applied linguistsand teachers argue tha. dictation encourages the student to
, -

1 e for the particular purpose being tested (e.g. English for studying Medicine) may actually be inferior to a foreign lear I concentration on single sound segments in itself is sufficient to impair the ht be justifiably argued that low scores on such autestrpns athednrti admmyare kdte ete tr e osa.u nffht result of lack of motivation or of knowledge of the subj o iy t m igl s s a h cr u on tit io u everything they hear. scriptive grammars and lexicons). In practice. however, some tests of a communicative nature include the testing of usa for the particular purpose being tested.

) ometimes the assessment of language skills in isolation may have onl a verylanguage. I mastery of the grammar of a limited relevance to real life. For exam e studel t's short-term memory span. (Some teachers mistakenly feel that they can make the dictation easier by read The attempt to measure different language skills in communicative

tests is based on a view of language referred to as the divisibility information obtained to writing or speaking. hypothesis. Communicative testing results in an attempt to obtain differ

profiles of a it is often a simple matter for the same learner may, for example, have- country in the worl ometric-structural tests,learner's performance in the language. Thetest to be used globally for any a poor ability iin usi normal speed. necessity reflect the cult a particular country because of their re of ictation passage, suitable for use at an intermediate or fairly advanced ls. Not The oblique strokes denote the units wh level. only should 1

ately such relevant skills as the ability to translate news reports, the ability to understand radio broadcasts, or the abili

xample, and more acute,/ archit ects be gan to plan t aller buildings .// Wood and iron, howe ver,/ to complain about som rew moreit was found that many students had experienced difficulty when they were instructed were not strong enough

i Reading hence their particular suitability for the testing of English for specific purposes. However, it would be a mistake to Listening and speaking d the methods of scoring. In too many instances, the unrealistic expectations of examiners result in the setting of highly I Writing



s following general English courses are based on exactly the same principles as those for adult learners intending to e

specialised courses of a professional nt to specific situations or needs. Thestylistics and translation oracademic nature. will depend largely on the type of tes various profiles listed comparative degree of detail in thehas introduced the concept of methods. Finally, communicative testing the total skills of translation are tested, the test writer ones. Language hand systems are used to is meaningful and leve e modes of assessment in preference to quantitative should endeavour to present at task which show the learner's relev :
l 9

e of such an approach lies in the more humanistic attitude it brings to language testing. Each student's performance

s and their teachers (or sponsors) with much-needed guidance concerning performance and problem areas. Moreover, produce in the form of computer printouts.

nts of the preliminary level of a well-known test show how qualitative modes of assessment, descriptions of performance

be tested are: writing of formal/informal le t t er s; i nit ia t ing l et t e rs a nd re s pondi ng t o t hem ; w rit i ng c onne c t ed prose, on topics relevant to

A m ong t he i t em s t o b e te s t ed ar e: t he us e of a di ct i ona ry ; a bi l i t y t o f i l l i n f o r m s ; a b il i t y t o f o l l o w i ns t r uc t i o ns , t o r e a d f o r t he gene SPOKEN ENGLISH -

Section 1 Social English Candidates must be able to: (a) Read and write numbers, letters, and common abbreviations. (b) Participate in short and simple cued conversation, possibly using visual stimuli. (c) Respond appropriately to everyday situations described in very simple terms. (d) Answer questions in a directed situation. Section 2 Comprehension Candidates must be able to: (a) Understand the exact meaning of a simple p"?.;ce of speech, and

indicat e this c omprehension by : marking a map, plan, or grid; -------choosing-the_rnost.apprepriate_oLa_Se.t. o f visuals ;, . stating whether or not, or how, the aural stimulus relates to the visual; answering simple questions. (b) Understand the basic and essential meaning of a piece of speech too difficult to be understood completely.

60 seconds in a situation

or situations likely to be appropriate in real life for a speaker at this level. This may include explanat ion, adv ic


no c a n d id a t e would speak at length in real life unless it were really necessary, so that, for example, narrative would not be expected exc

ese contents, the test handbook then describes briefly what a successful candidate should be able to do both in the wri language.

g ative test of English and illustrate the operations, text types and formats which form the basis of the test. For purpos

ust be emphasised. however. that specifications for all four skills are included in th.e.appropriate test handbook, toget . . relevant information for potential testees. 6
T E S TS O F R E A DI N G Operations Basic Level a. Scan text to locate specific information. b. Search through text to decide whether the whole o r p a r t i s r e l e v a n t t o

an established need. c. Search through text to establish which part is relevant to an

d. Search through text to evaluate the content in terms of previously

established need.

received information.
Text Types and Topics Basic Level Form Type

Leaflet Guide Advertisement Letter Postcard

Form Set of instructions Diary entry T im e t a b l e Map/Plan

Announcement Description Narration Comment

Anecdote/Joke Report/Summary

Format a. One paper of 1r. In addition, candidates are allowed ten minutes ho

before the start of the examination to familiarise themselves with the contents of the source material. The question paper must n
looked t during this time. b. Candidates will be provided with source material in the form of authentic booklets, brochures, etc. This material may be the same at all levels. c . Questions will be of the following forms: i) Multiple choice ill True False Hi) Write-in (single word or phrase) d. Monolingual or bilingual dictionaries may be used freely.

TEST OF ORAL INTERACTION Operations Basic Level Expressing: thanks requirements o pi n io n s comment attitude confirmation apology want/need inf ormat ion sequence of events information directions se rv ice (and all areas above,)

Narrating: Eliciting:

Types of Text At all levels candidates may be expected to take part in dialogue and multi-participant in The interactions will normally be of a face-to-face nature but telephone conversations are not excluded.

e c a nd i da t e m a y b e a s k e d t o t a k e pa r t i n a s im u l a t i o n o f a n y interaction derived from the list of general areas of language use. Howe Format The format will be the same at each level. a. Tests are divided into three parts. Each part is observed by an

assessor nominated by the Board. The assessor evaluates and score the candidate's performance but ta test. b. Part I consists of an interaction between the candidate and an

interlocutor who will normally be a representative of the school or centres where the test is held and w ill normally be known t o t he can formats are not excluded. Time approximately 5 minutes. c. Part II consists of an interaction between candidates in pairs (or exceptionally in threes or with one of the pair a non-examination candidate). Again this will normally be face-to-face but telephone formats are not excluded. Time approximately 5 minutes. 4._Part111 consists of a report from the candidates to the interlocutor


(who has been absent from the room) of the interatcion from -Parr -It: Time approximate

ve approach and even the structuralist approach - depending on the particular purpose of the test and also on the various test cons

al and what is practicable in a certain situation. Nevertheless this should not be used as an excuse for writing and admini ble and which has a useful backwash effect on the teaching and learning leading to the test. 1

Notes and references 011er, J W 1972 Dictation as a test of ESL Proficiency. In Teaching English as a Second Language: A Book of Readings. McGraw-Hill 2 Cohen, A D 1980 Testing Language Ability in the Classroom. Newbury House 3 Widdowsori, H G 1978 Testing Language as Communication. Oxford University Press 4 Carroll, -B T1978 An English languagetestingService: specifications. The British Council

5 The Oxford-Arels Examinations in English as a Foreign Language: Regulations and Syllabuses 6 Royal Society of Arts: The Communicative Use of English as a Foreign Language (Specifications and Format) I


lb je c t iv e t e s tin g
(with special reference to multiple-choice techniques)

3.1 Subjective and objective testing

ay and then express their ideas as well as possible; in a multiple-choice test they have to weigh up carefully all the alternatives and s

that a testee will score the same mark no matter which examiner marks the test.

swer (or, at least. a limited number of correct answers), they can be scored mechanically. The fact that objective tests can be ma testing large numbers of candidates.

skills and areas of language may be tested far more effectively by one method than by another. Reading and vocabulary, for exa m

following stimulus: --

iTtitVgb"ye -aTs-- a Y - otrwent to - liveln - Ca


OWSb rfieone ask - sy ou - how long y ou hav e lived

response may be w hate ver stude nt s wish to say. Some answers will be better than others, thus perhaps causing a problem in the sc


I've been living in Cairo since 1986.

I didn't leave Cairo since 1986.


I have lived in the Cairo City for above two years.

From 1986. 25


I ca m e to live here before 1986 and I still live here.


6: Since 1986 my home is in Cairo.

e type of task students might have to perform in real life, it is more difficult to rees of acceptability and ways of scoring all the possible responses. Careful guidelines must be drawn up to achieve co

arking of the following objective item. The question of how valid such an item is, however, may now be of considerable

Complete the sentences by putting the best word in each blank. 'Is your home still in Cairo?' 1986.' 'Yes, I've been living here A. for B. on C. in D. at E. since 1

way in real-life situations. Consequently, the last item tests grammar rather than communication: it is concerned with stu language works rather than with their ability to respond appropriately to real qty'stions.

questions but considerable time on marking. In an objective test the tester spends a great deal of time constructing

marking. criticised on the grounds that they are

3.2 Objective tests

he fact that objective tests may generally look easier is no indication at all that they are easier. The constructor of a sta i

items where necessary so that the final version of his or her test discriminates widely. Setting the pass-mark, or the a particular point. may gement or on cutting-off external depend on the tester's subjective jud

e test population and then each item is evaluated in the light of the testees' performance. This procedure enables t

the test in different years.

of the multiple-choice type encourage guessing. However, four or.five alternatives for each item are sufficient to reduce the

shows that candidates rarely make wild guesses: most base their guesse partial knowledge. A much wider sample of grammar. vocabulary and phonology can

gress tests at certain levels) when good objective tests of grammar, vocabulary and phonology may be useful provid

the test items are poorly written; irrelevant areas and skills are emphasised in the test simply because th are 'testable': and it is confined to language-based usage and neglects the communicativ skills involved.

those tasks which they are not intended to do. As already indicated, they can never test the ability to communicate in both subjective and objective test items.

3.3 Multiple-choice items: general me detail, as they are undoubtedly one of the most widely used types of items in objective_ tests. However, it must

testing has proliferated as a result of attempts to use multiple-choice items to perform tasks for which they w

ng types of items to construct, numerous poor multiple-choice tests now abound. Indeed. the length of time required t connected with teaching or testing. The chief criticism of the multiple-choice item, however, is that frequently it does not lend itself to the testing of language as communication. The process involved in the actual selection of one out situations are produced rather than chosen from several options. Nevertheless_multiple,choiceittems_san_provide a useful means of .

four or five options bears little relation to the way language is used in most real-life situations. Appropriate re

always recognised that such items test knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, etc. rather than the ability to use langua

forms, etc. and to make important discriminations in the target language. In doing this, multiple-choice items

identify areas of difficulty. Furthermore, multiple-choice items offer a useful introduction to the

construction of objective tests. Only through an appreciation and mastery of the techniques of multiple-cho

i y able to recognise the limitations imposed by such items and then employ other more appropriate techniques of testi purposes.

f chance, it is extremely difficult and often impoSsible to construct as many as seven good options. Indeed, since it is ofte

vocabulary and reading. I

essment of a testee's performance and short enough to be n a test will vary according to the level of difficulty, the nature of the areas being tested, and the purpose of the test.

the trial test.

and used free of any context. Both linguistic context and situational context are essential in using language: Isolated s

mportant to remember that the following multiple-choice items are presented out of context here simply in order to save being made. 1

to as options/responses/alternatives. One option is the answer, correct option or key, whil6 the other options are distract

Stay here until Mr Short C. is telling

D. tel A. told B. will tell

you to come. stem distract rs answer/correct option/key

options! responses' alternatives

The following general principles should be observed when multiple-choice items are constructed:

e-choice item should have only one answer. This answer must be absolutely correct unless the instruction specifies ch 1

abulary tests). Although this may seem an easy matter, it is sometimes extremely difficult to construct an item having
'I stayed there until John C. came A. had come B. would come D. has come

and it helps to reinforce a particular teaching point. Obviously, few would wish to test both grammar and vocabular

I never knew where A. B.

.h a d t h e b o y s gC.nhave the boys gone o e .the boys have goneD. the boys had gone

at it may sometimes be necessary to construct such impure items at the very elementary levels because of the sever

f specific grammar test items. For example, stems ending with the determiner a, followed by options in the form of n makes the sentence grammatically incorrect:

Someone who designs houses is a

A. designer B. builder

C. architect D. plumber

The item can be easily recast as follows: Someone who designs houses is A. a designerB. a builder C. an architect D. a plumber

Stems ending in are, were, etc. may have the same weaknesses as the following and will require c

The boy's hobbies referred to in the first paragraph of the passage were A. camping and fishing B. tennis and golf C. cycling long distances D. fishing, rowin swimming g and . . _ E. collecting stamps

t would soon be aware that options C and E were obviously not in the tester's mind when first constructing the item ab therefore, realise that they had been added later simply as distractors.

Stems ending in prepositions may also create certain difficulties. In the following reading comprehension item
John soon returned to A. work B. the prison C. home

D. school

han the actual problem which the item is testing: a grammar test item should not contain other grammatical features as

e-choice items should be as brief and as clear as possible (though it is desirable to provide short contexts for gramma

s, items are arranged in rough order of increasing difficulty. It is generally considered important to have one or two si

ot too familiar with the kind of test being administered. Nevertheless, areas of language which are trivial and not wort

3.4 Multiple choic e


problem clearly stem/the items: the and concisely. The testee should be able to obtain from the stem a very general idea of the problem an
correct option/the distractors should not contain extraneous information or irrelevant clues, thereby

The stem

erstand the

y could have handled the problem correctly. Although the stem should be short, it should convey enough information t

2 The stem may take the following forms: (a) an incomplete statement
He accused me of A. speaking B. saying (b) lies. C. telling D. talking

a complete statement
Everything we wanted was to hand. A. under control C. well cared for D. being prepared B. within reach

(c) a question
According to the writer, what did Tom immediately do? C. He began to shout. A. He ran home. B. He met Bob. D. He phoned the police.

. .

The stem should usually contain those words or phrases

which would otherwise have

to he repeated in each


The word 'astronauts' is used in the passage to refer to A. travellers in an ocean liner B. C.

D. The st ern he re s hould be rew rit ten so t hat it reads: The word 'astronauts' is used in the passage to refer to travellers in A. an ocean liner B. a space-ship C. a submarine D . a ba l l o o n

. .travellers in a space-ship .t ravellers in a submarine .t r a v e l l e r s i n a b a l l o o n

The same principle applies to grammar items. The following item: the children playing in the park. I enjoy C. looking at A. looking to B. looking about D. looking on should be rewritten in this way: the children playing in the park. I ero.oy looking to B. about C. at D. on

the errors made by students in their free written work has been the conission of the preposition after look (a commo the children playing in the park. I enjoy A. looking onC. looking at B. looking D. looking to

es which have been decided upon. This is particularly relevant, for example, when comparisons are involved in readin Tom was A. taller than B. smaller than - C. as tall as the other two boys.

The correct For normal purposes of testing, this should be clearly the correct or best option: thus, it is most important that e

another person.

eater degree of subtlety is sometimes gained by having more than one correct option in each item. The correct answe According to the writer, Jane wanted a new racquet because

her old one was damaged slightly she had lost her old one C. her father had given her some money for one Mary had a new racquet E. Ann often borrowed her old racquet you cycle here to see us? Who A. ordercf2. - .B.caused-- made - -Ai-asked 0 let -

wo multiple-choice test items above actually comprises a group of true/false (i.e. right/wrong) items and, therefore, ea

score = 5). The correct option should be approximately the same length as the distractors. This principle applies especially to vocabulary tests and tests of 31 _ _

ke the correct option longer than the distractors simply because it is so often necessary to qualify a statement or word in
He began to choke while he was eating the fish. A. die B. cough and vomit C. .be unable to breathe because of something in the windpipe D. .g r o w v e r y a n g r y
The distractors

ctor, or incorrect option, should be reasonably attractive and plausible. It should appearright to any tes,tee who is unsu

ms should be constructed in such a way that students obtain the correct option

by-direct selection-rather than by the

wing grammar item is much below the level being tested and will be eliminated by testees immediately: their chances
The present tax reforms have benefited A. that B. the C. a D. an poor.

1 ill be exposed to incorrect forms. In the above item (and in all grammar items) it is only the wrong choice, and its imp its own and only becomes incorrect when inserted into the stem.

The following item (which actually appeared in a class progress test of reading comprehension) contains two absurd How did Picard first travel in space?
C A. .He travelled in a space-ship.. B. .He used a large balloon. D. we nt i n a s ubm ari ne . .He jumped from a tall building.

.H e

tudent who is not sure of the correct answer, its inclusion in a test item is superfluous. Plausible distractors are best b

work, (b) their answers in previous tests, (c) the teacher's experience, and (d) a contrastive analysis between the native and target languages. Distractors should not he too difficult nor demand a higher proficiency

they arc too difficult, they will succeed only in distracting the good student, who will be led into considering the corre dencv ary test items. You need a
A. permutation

to enter that military airfield. B. perdition C. permitD. perspicuity

Note that capital letters are only used in options which occur at the beginning of a sentence. Compare the followin

A. the price

of petrol increased?
B. price C. a price

3 2

of petrol has actually fallen. B. C. A price A. The price Price

3.5 Writing the test

Where multiple-choice items are"used, the testees may be required to perform any of the followi
1 Write out the correct option in full in the blank.

He may not come, but we'll get ready in case he A. will B. does C. is D. may


2 Write only the letter of the correct option in the blank or in a box (which may appear at the side o He may not come, but we'll get ready in case he A. will B. does C. is D. may

3 Put a tick or a cross at the side of the correct option or in a separate box. He may not come, but we'll get ready in case he A. will B. does
C. is

A. B . C. D.

D. may

4 Underline the correct option. He may not come, but we'll get ready in case he A. will B. does C. is D. may 5 Put a circle round the letter at the side of the correct option. He may not come, but we'll get ready in case he 0 does C. is D. may A. will

Multiple-choice items are rarely optional in a test, for the testees would then spend considerable time in unnecessary reading before choosing the items they wished to answer. Moreover, unless there are good reasons for weighting different items methods), it is advisable to award equal marks for each item. The correct option should appear in each position (e.g. A, B, C, D or

or sub-test. This can usually be achieved if it is placed at random in a certain position or if all the options are placed in alphabetical o t o k e ep to t h i s o r d er .

Blackwell started his career as a lawyer in A. 1921

B. 1925 C . 1 9 2 6 D . 1 9 3 2

ny well-known tests strike a happy balance between objective items (including multiple-choice items) and subjective items. They test fa


Tests of gram m ar and usage

1 n types of objective items used to test awareness of the grammatical features of the language. Each type of item will multiple-choice items error-recognition items rearrangement items completion items transformation items items involving the changing of words 'broken sentence' items pairing and matching items combination items addition items .;v,,t 6 -

4.1 Introduction

lways be remembered that such items as the above test the ability to recognise or produce correct forms of language s meaning. emotions, etc.

aster the grammatical system of the language they are learning. Thus, classroom tests of grammar and usage can p
4 .2 M ul t i p l e c h oi c e

O 0

grammar it ems:it grammar tests is the incomplete statement type, with a choice- of four or five options. This item many constructors of em

types (A. tell B. having told C. be Type 1 Tom ought not to telling . D. have told)me your secret, but he did. Type 2 Tom ought not to A tell B. having told C. be telling D. have told me your secret, but he did.

A. tell B.having told me your secret, but he did. Type 3 Tom ought not to C. be telling D. have told

Type 4 Tom ought not to have told me your secret, but he did. A. No change B. tell C. hav ing t old D. be telling

Unf o rt unat e ly , t y pe 1 confuses the reader because of the long parenthesis (i.e. the four options occurring between ought not to and me

of the sentence than as part of a list of distracters.

ars below, but it is not recommended since it requires the testees to spend time on unnecessary reading. Not only is it u ne c o no m i c a l bu

Ty pe 5 A . T om ought not t o t e ll me y our s ec re t , but he did . B. Tom ought not to having told me your secret, but he did.

C. D.

.Tom .Tom

ought not to be telling me your sec ret, but he did. ought not to have told me your sec re t, but he did.


The f ol lo wi ng m et ho d is us e f ul f o r t e st i ng s hort ans w er s a nd

T y pe 6 'T o m o ug ht no t t o ha Ce 'tN edt h e r o ne t he s en 'te ' . ' v o l i a n y y o u o u gh t c r . t A. .' S o o u g h t y o u . ' . B.

.'Ne it he r

ought you.' - D. 'So oughtn't you.'

h i c h i s true according t o t he information c onve yed in each s ent enc e. Suc h an it em may he included either in a t est of reading compre

T y pe 7 'T om ought not t o ha ve t o ld me . A,_Tom did not tell me but he should. B. .P e r h a p s T o m m a y n o t t e l l m e . C. D.

.Tom told me but it was w rong of him. .It was necessary for Tom not to tell me.

It may be argue d that an underst anding of syntact ical patt erning is just as nece ssary for t

was Robert late last week?' Three times.'

A. How much B. How many C. How often D . H o w long 35

tems which appear in a test of grammar and structure should be made to sound as natural as possible. The following mechanical te This book belongs to Peter. It IS A. Peter's book B. the book to Peter C. D.

.the book of Peter .the book of Peter's

can be rewritten as follows: A. Mary's book B. the book to Mary C. D.

This book belongs to Peter, but that is

.the book of Mary .the book of Mary's

Note that distractors should generally be correct both in writing and in _ speech_ The_following_item_pro.ved_unsuccessful.when it was included in a

ecause many of the more able students selected option D, the reason being that they pronounced used to quite correctly as use tolju i

to go to my uncle's farm every weekend. C. was used D. use

A. am used B. used

of a detailed context in this way, however, often limits the range of grammatical features being tested. It is usually impossible, for

she may wish to test. This is the price to be paid for including more natural, contextualised test items. On the other hand the advantage of ,

ntextualised sentences can lead to ambiguity as they are usually open to several interpretations when used as stems for multiple-

I couldn't take the test last week because I A. have caught C. would catch B. had caught D. was catching

a cold.

ough background knowledge and details to avoid ambiguity and alternative interpretations, and the newspaper report itself is very in

A lo ng w ay f rom ho me

(4) . said that Faaitua Logo, (5) moved to the United States two years ago, left his soli and daughter-in-law (6) a few minutes in a market in San Jose (7)

A 72-year-old Samoan who (1) no English at all spent thirteen days (2) on buses in the San Francisco area after had become separated (3) his family, police said.

() () () ( 4 ) ()A . H e B. They C. One D. what ( 5 ) (6) A. .inw h i c h for ()A B. that w at B. C. since C . D. h o (7) ()A . t o b u y B. for buying C. and buy D . b uy i ng (8) ()A . w a i t e d B. were waitingC. have waited D. w ait (9) ()A . F o r B. On C. In D. At C. nearD . a w a y ( 1 0 ) ()A . f a r B. from B. jumpedC . h a s j um p e d D. would h, ( 11) A . wo uld jum p
jumped (12) A. on 4.3 C ons t ruc t ing multiple - choice items B. at C. for D. during

not remember where they (8) somethingata for him. (9) first, he began to walk to their home in Palo Alto, 20 kilometres (10) on a bus. H changed from bus to bus (12), but later he the daytime and slept unde bushes and trees, police said. (1) A . i s s p e a k i n g B. .speaks C. has spoken D. w as s peak ir (2) A . t o r i d e B. was riding C. ride D. riding D. off (3) A . w i t h B. from C. by

mples of students' own writte work to provide the basis for the test items, it should not be too difficult for constructors of classroom tes

i compositions and open-ended answers to questions.

glish is learnt as a foreign language. The errors have not been `manufactured' for the purpose of illustration, but they do represent er

such students.

o stay closed among walls. Sometimes when the weather is sunny I go to v t hr o ug h t he p a r k ne a r m y lo d g in g a n d e n j o y l o o k i ng t h e c hi l

Item 1 Let us ignore the error in the first sentence for the time being and concentrate on the error of tense after hope.

The first step is to reduce the length of the sentence and to correct the error (and any other errors in the original sente
I hope that you wouldn't mind on such a long period between my last letter and this one.

becomes I hope you won't mind waiting for so long.

eing tested. We write in the correct option and the distractor which the student has provided for us. However, we have
mind waiting for so long. I promise to reply I hope you sooner in future. A. won't B. wouldn't

rs. But if we cannot locate any suitable errors without too much difficulty, we use our own experience and knowledge

mind waiting for so long. I promise to reply I hope you sooner in future. A. won't B. wouldn't C. shouldn't D. shan't

ble usage amongst certain speakers, thus giving us two correct options instead of one. Though it is highly improbable th slight shadow of doubt. This is enough to make it desirable to remove shan't from our list of options. I

ce shan't with can't. If students from a particular language background make such mistakes as can't mind, can't should changed to couldn't. As can be seen at this early stage, the actual process of item writing is extremely subjective.
mind waiting for so long. I promise to reply I hope you sooner in future. A. won't B. wouldn't C. couldn't D. can't An alternative suggestion for a fourth option might be don't or didn't: I hope you don't mind waiting for so long. I hope you didn't mind waiting for so long.

Unfortunately, both don't and didn't are correct. However, in the following context, didn't is not acceptable: 'How long are you going to be?'
mind waiting for so long. 'About half an hour. I hope you A. won't B. wouldn't C. shouldn't D. didn't


It may be argued that didn't stands out too much. If so - and if it is equall useful to test the use of don't (instead of w 'How long will you be?' 'About half an hour. I hope you mind waiting for so long. A. don't B. wouldn'tC. shouldn't D. didn't

efinement in the constructioi of multiple-choice items. Furthermore, some items are much more difficul . to construct t
Item 2 and enjoy looking the children playing. Error: the children playing. Item: Old Mr Jones enjoys C. looking on A. looking B. looking at D. looking to

distractor. It can be argued, however, that looking for is correct: old Mr Jones might enjoy looking for the children pla for his grandchildren, who are playing).

he correct option is now in the third position, C. It is important to vary its position. Note also that the word looking ap
Old Mr Jones enjoys looking B. on C. at D. to A. -

the children playing.

However, when this format includes a dash ( ), it is unnatural and not recommended since the insertion of a dash in the
Item 3

Error: 'I suppose that you were not angry to me.'

Item:I do hope you weren't angry me. A. to B. with C. on D. about

orrect and may be used as a possible distracto; On the other hand, it may be felt that a number of native English sp list of incorrect options is again g y subjective one. The 4 . 4 C o n s t r u c t i n g e r r o r -fourth
recognition multiplechoice items


sentence of the letter on page 37 begins Sun is shining, tre The error caused by the omission o become green and article may be tested as follows, using a multiple-choice item:

A. Sun

is shining brightly today.

B. The sun C. A sun

D. Some sun

however, that the choice here is strictly between options A and B at certain levels where students have learned to avoid

using the multiple-choice format) is the error-recognition type of item.

Type 1

nce contains four words or phrases underlined, marked A, B, C a nd D. S e l e c t t he u nd e r l i ne d w o r d o r ph r a s e w h ic h i s i nc o r r e c t or unac 1. I do hope you wouldn't mind waiting for such a long time. B D A C

2. I'm worried that you'll be angry to me. D B C A 3. I didn't see Bill since he went into hospital last month. A BC D 4. My car had broken down, so I went there by foot. A D _C I Type

There is a mistake in grammar in each of the following sentences. Write the letter of that part of the sentence in which it occurs. 0 0 A B C D 1. 2.

.Old DA

shining/brightly today!, isn't it? A

D 1

C D A r Jones/enjoys/looking the children/playing in B the park. 3..Tony's father/would not let him/to stay out/late at night. A B C D

4. Didn't/Susan tell you/she wouldn't mind to come/with us on the picnic?

ildren. This type of error cannot be tested by the first item of the error-recognition type. However, there are different ways of correctin

Tony's father would not permit him to stay out late. (= B) Tony's father would not let him stay out late. For this reason, the test writer is strongly advised to avoid items of the second type.


, another argument against this type of item is that it emphasises the more negative aspects of language learning. It is clearly not suf 1

required when students check, edit or proof-read any report, article, paper or essay they have just written.

4.5 Constructing Rearrangement items can take several forms, the first of which to conside rearrangement items here will be the multiple-choice type.

wrote the letter in 4.3 obviously experienced considerable difficulty with word order in reported speech, especially aft 'You know how is it. (3rd sentence)
'I wonder did you grow more fatter since summer.' (later in the same letter)

est the first error by means of an ordinary multiple-choice item, we are faced with the problem of being restricted to onl You know how A. it is B. is it

nds here, we cannot possibly construct other options. It becomes necessary, therefore, to lengthen the original statem 'Won t I need a coat?' 'Well, you know how
A. warm is it today B. today it is warm C. is it warm today D. warm it is today E. today is it warm

There seems to be a danger here of confusing the testees by presenting them with the problem in such a

juggling becomes necessary on their part. A preferable item type' is the following word-o

Complete each sentence by putting the words below it in the right order. Put in the boxes only t 'Won't I need a coat?' 'Well, you know how A. it B. today C. warm D. is
since summer. I wonder if A. grown B. you C. fatter D. have

Word order items are useful for testing other structures and features involving inversion:

Everyone's forgotten Not only

A. me A. you However A. cup B. he

C. which D. used
, but he took me to his house. C. did D. meet , you'll never pass that test.

B. he B. try

C. hard D. may

Leeds United should have won: just think A. unlucky B. were C. how D. they


_I don't know how long C. is A. going B. Jim

D. to be

l The order of adjectives and the position of adverbs can be tested in this way, as indeed can several other grammati The police are looking for A. big B. two C. cars D. black A. short B. new

Would you like to read David Brown's

cleaning car. his Tom said A. had B. finished C he D. just . been rude to you! Only C. have D. once A. ever B. I Mrs Walker made Ann A. her new pen B. to

C. story D. exciting

C. show

D. me

thieves. Someone warned Rob A. for B. to C. out D. look

rom a multiple-choice item format to a format involving some actual writing. The rearrangement item can be used to te becomes a little less artificial. The students are simply required to

unscramble sentences and to write out each sentence, putting the words or constituent parts in their correct orde 1. Not only - !the examination/very difficult/unfair/was/but/it/was/also 2. It is not advisable /the examination/late/up/the night/to stay/before 3. The best way to prepare

/is/yourself/past papers/timed practice/for the paper/to give/in doing (

uch items can offer a means of testing an understanding of connectives and reference devices. Students may be requ

A. Consequently, you should make every effort to complete the paper. B. Scribble them down as quickly as you can, if necessary. C. If you find yourself running out of time before you can complete it, however, don't worry about writing your answers neatly. D. Remember that it is impossible to score marks on questions which you have not attempted.
1 4.6 Constructing

U constructed completion items are a useful means of testing a student's ability to produce acceptable and appropriate f completion items They are frequently preferable to multiple-choice items since they measure

ecognition, testing the ability to insert the most appropriate words in selected blanks in sentences. The words selected f Con-tent words may be selected in a vocabulary or reading test.

xtract from the student's letter in 4.3 illustrates one (minor) difficulty of constructing satisfactory completion items. Altho

or as:

Sun is shining today. sun is shining today.

T he fo r me r item suggests to the testees that no determiner is necessary (since Sun is written with a capital l

a determiner is necessary (because sun is written without a capital).

The item can be simply rewritten as a question to overcome this problem


sun shining today? Here are two more examples of completion items based on the student's

letter: Write the correct word in each blank. the children playing. 1. The old man enjoys looking

Helen's mother. 2. That car belongs me. 3. I hope you're not angry

Put a, the, or some in each blank only where necessary. If you think th no word should be placed in the blank, put a cross (x) there. sun shining through the clouds? 1. Can you see day before yesterday. 2. I saw your uncle last summer? 3. What have you been doing since I saw you

orward completion items can cause problems in the scoring. In the following example was preparing and prepared are

PREPARE 1. He heard a gasp behind him as he

to go.

Unexpected ways. of completing blanks are shown yet again in the following ex
the As soon as possible the next day I sent my story the magazine which my best work editor

rd, it illustrates the lengths to which the test writer must sometimes go to make certain that testees produce only the


The following example'- indicates the wide range of possibilities for one completion item:

I go to the cinema regularly, but I

to the theatre for months. I

The answer obviously required by the tester is haven't been; however, possible answers are:
haven't been shan't be going can't go hadn't been haven't been able to go (sometimes) don't go am not going may not go don't know whether I've been didn't go haven't gone shan't go haven't been going . won't go

e of the present perfect tense, there are,three ways of restricting the choice available to the testees (although the Ifirst t (a) by providing a context: Kim usually goes to the cinema about once a week but she

four films already this month and it's only the 20th today. (Possible answers: has seen/will have seen/must have seen)

(b) by providing data: I go to the cinema regularly, but it's ages since I last saw a play.
I go to the cinema regularly, but I

to the theatre for

months. (Possible answers: haven't been/haven't gone/haven't been going/haven't been able to go) 1 (c) by using multiple choice techniques: to the theatre three times since I last saw you. I

A. go C. had gone B. have been D. went

( i f ambiguity referred to in the previous paragraphs. Secondly, the students experience the use of grammar in contex

fill in any of the blanks.

elves are not indicated. In example (a) only one word should be written in each blank, while in example (b) one wo

4 .4

(a) It (1) always useful (2) practise answering the types of questions (3) you may (4) asked. However, (5) is not enough simply (6) glance through a past paper (7) answer the questions (8) your head. indication at all (10) This will give you what you can do. (b) Historians and anthropologists used think

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10)

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) ong primitive tribes. Results recent investigations. h o w e v e r , h a v e s h o w n w e m u c h t o l e a r n from primitiv e people. Without bene fit of im (6) (7) beset m o d e r n s o c i e t y w e r e u n c o m m o n p r i m i t i v e man. Although he did live a long life, althier previously thought. (8) (9) (10) (11) (12)

ammatical points more difficult, they neve:theless offer a useful way of testing an ability to handle structures accordi:27 to certain pattern

Many zoo officials are worried by the increasing il-treatment of animals by visitors to the zoo, especially by c perform in the ways expected,the animals very active in their they Crocodiles seem to bethe chief victims of such T h e bo t t i . s , c a ns , s t i c k s a nd enc stones that

as unsightly li

M o s t o f t h e v i s o r s w h o -in the enclosures. Some animals, however, swallow a re no t re al ly - al ic ious but Zoo off - cials are simply Indiscriminate feeding of constantly the animals is not allowed because

completion of dialogues can also provide a way of testing y to manipulate the grammar and patterns of - ..he language in context. Again, meaning plays a key role in determiniD the studenttss'' abi lit

icult to write natural dialogues and at the same time provid . e with useful cues.

A: B:

So do I. I generally watch it for an hour or two every evening.



Immediately after I've finished my homework, at about eight-thirty or nine.



So are mine. The funnier, the better. I like American ones best of all y ou k no w , pr ogr am me s lik e 'B e ns on' a nd 'D if f e re nt St ro ke s . E

a: Neither do I. I can't stand anything that's too frightening.


e: I agree about educational programmes, but there are still very few of
them. 4.7 C onst ruct ing transformation it ems

cluded in tests containing multiple-choice items. It is the one objective item type which comes closest to measuring some of the .? made in the scoring process: e.g. how should spelling errors be marked? The following transformation items have been based on errors which occurred in the student's letter, an extract of which was given in Section 4.1

ences in another way, beginning each n e w s e n t e n c e w i t h t h e w o r d s g i v e n . M a k e a n y c h a n g e s t h a t a r e nec essary but do not c hange 1. I haven't written to you for a long time. It's a long time E

2 In sunny Weather I often go for a walk.

When the weather

Old Mr Jones enjoys 3. Old Mr Jones likes to look at the children

Other transformation items giving some idea of the range of areas that can be covered in this way are:

W o r k i ng 1. It was impossible to work under those I don't think you 2. I don't think it's necessary for you to stay It was possible 3. I was able to leave the office early 4. Joe can sing better than you.

You cannot

This book is so big 5. This book is too big to go on any of the

6. Frances is very good at tennis. Frances plays 7. Poor Peter was bitten by a mosquito. A mosquito 46

Mr Strong asked me

8. 'When will you visit London?' Mr Strong

As with completion items, it is often difficult to restrict the number of possible answers. However, such restrictions are not essential for

provided that they are fully aware of all the possible correct answers and of the specific area they are testing. The following exam

I haven't written to you for a long time.

It's a long time since I (last) wrote (to) you since you received a letter from me, etc.

I don't think it's necessary for you to stay any longer. I don't think you need (to) stay any longer = expected answer
will find it necessary to stay any longer = possible answer Joe can sing better than you. You cannot sing as well as Joe = expected answer sing better than Joe = possible answer Frances is very good at tennis. Frances plays tennis very well/extremely well, etc. expected answer very good tennis = possible answer

n the last three examples defeat the purpose of the tests as they stand at present, since students can avoid using the ac tual gr am ma

Need Is it necessary for us to stay any You cannot sing as well as Joe.
Joe can sing

Frances is very good at tennis. Frances plays tennis

Sometimes it is difficult to elicit the particular form we wish to test. For example

I feel miserable even though I shouldn't. I know I shouldn't feel miserable but I do. Although_/ do is the answer_required, we could scarcely fault:

I know I shouldn't feel miserable but I certainly don't feel happy. I know I shouldn't feel miserable but I am

In some tests, 3 students may be required to rewrite a sentence beginning with a certain word underlined in the o

They believed that the earth was fiat. The earth was believed to be flat.

This item type is a useful variation of the previous type discussed. but sometimes restricts the kind of transforma

sentence has to appear in the original sentence. Thus it becomes impossible to test the required transformation of a se necessary for us to stay any longer? (= Need we stay any longer?)

an also be effected by requiring students to substitute a given verb in a sentence, 3 the new verb necessitating a cha
Ten lessons make up the course. (CONSIST) The course consists of ten lessons. I couldn't go swimming yesterday. (ALLOW) I wasn't allowed to go swimming yesterday.

As with all the types of items treated in the previous sections, the transformation type of item is improved if it can be put into a context. (i.e. - if the sentences for transformation can be written in sequence to form part - of a continuous piece of prose). Unfortunately, however, the provision of a context does not allow for the range of sentence patterns the test writer. may wish to test. Moreover, most students tend to treat each sentence in isolation for the purposes of the test.

e following examples illustrate how each of the sentences for transformation can be made to form part of a continuous 1 1 Changing sentences according to a given pattern
(a) Very few objective tests allow for choice. You have However, you (b) However, the instructions should be carefully (c) Different types of questions on the same paper will necessitate changes in the instructions. The instructions 2 Changing sentences by using selected words (a) Remember that it is not necessary to answer the questions in the order set. (NEED)

(b) You are advised to check your answers carefully after each question. (ADVISABLE)

(c) Most teachers also recommend you to leave five minutes spare at the end of the examination in order to check your paper. (SUGGEST)

Constructing items involving the changing of words

n this particular case by providing blanks on the right of the text for completion. The continuity of the text is not imp

1 Verbs: tenses, etc.

Researchers (1) to convince that a drug they (2) to test can improve the memory and at th

(1) (2)

(3) it (3) to be the forerunner of other drugs which eventually (4) to improve mental ability (4) 2 Word building

(1) (2) (3) rtnight did considerably (1. well) in tests than others. The tests inc lude d t he ( 2. m em or ise ) o f li st s of wo rds a s we ll a s of ( 3. inf o rm) fr om roups, but after a fortnight the group on the drug was found to h a v e i n c r e a s e d i t s ( 5 . a b l e ) t o l e a r n b y a l m o s t twenty per cent. (4) (5)

4.9 Constructing 'broken sentence' m ; tests the student's ability to write full sentences from a series of words and phrase s, and t hus does not allow the test w rit er to c onc e items

en tio n . In d eed , th is ve r y f a c t m a y b e considered an advantage. So many students are able to score high marks on grammar item

especially as the previous experience of many may lead them to think that the presence of an oblique stroke indicates the omissi

n be v ery harmf ul./ It be far be tte r / le ad/ balance d life / and get e n o u g h s l e e p / e v e r y n i g h t . / T h e r e / b e / l i m i t / d e g r e e a n d s p a n / conc

4.10 C onstructing pairing and matching items

d be presented orally in normal everyday situations. The item is more useful for testing students' sensitivity to appropriacy and the


Column 1 Going to see a film tonight? How was the film?. I can't stand war films, can you? So you went to the cinema.

Letter Column 2 F A. No, I didn't. B. Most are, I think. C. It's one of the reasons. D. I had a lot of work to do.

E. Actually, I quite like them. n d w a r f i l m s t o o v i o l e n t ? Have you ever seen a Japanese war film? F. Yes, I probably will. I like war films. G. No, I haven't. H. What a good idea! I prefer them to war films. I So do I. .

g to see the film?

g to see a cowboy film instead? Why didn't you come wit h us t o s ee the film? J. All right. Nothing special. don't like war films? K. Not really. I quite like them.

. .

. .

e. However, althou gh the la ngua ge an d situ ation her e a re inevitably artificial, the item does serve to help students to associate the

4.11 Constructing combination and ever, asaddition items largely mechanical responses on the part of the student. Note that although the separate sentences are linke they involve

1 Combination items

(Students are instructed to join each pair of sentences, using the word in brackets.) (a) You finish the paper. Then check your answers carefully. (AFTER) (b) Some questions may be very difficult. They should be left until later. (WHICH) ( c) You should usually w rit e answ ers in complet e sentences for all the
questions on your paper. However, write notes for those questions w hic h yo u do not hav e t im e t o ans w er . ( A LTH O UG H ) 2 Addition items

(Students are instructed to insert the word in capitals in the most appropriate place in each sentence.)
Hav e you answered all t he ques tions? Some students had not mastered the correct t echniques f or answering examination que stions. ( c ) OC C A SI ON AL LY The re m ay be l it t le c hoi ce o f que st i ons . ( b ) ST I L L Notes and references 1 Similar types of test items appeared in past papers of the Joint Matriculation Board: Test in English (Overseas).

(a ) Y ET

2 . I am indebted to Mr John Bright for this example and the possible solutions.
Similar items appeared in the pat in the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate: Certificate of Proficiency in English. 4 Similar items have appeared in the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate: First Certificate in English. 50

Testi vocabulary ng

5.1 Selection of items

n a test is generally a most exacting task. Many of the more traditional types of vocabulary tests are designed in such a rarely used in ordinary speech.

ing the students' active or passive vocabulary. The next task is to decide whether the lexical items in the test should be

Listening: passive/spoken Reading: passive/written Speaking: active/spoken Writing: active/written

eighting each division will carry in the test: for example, should there be a greater concentration on those lexical item


The test constructor's task is made much easier if all the students have

followed a particular syllabus. Lexical items can then be selected from: - the syllabus (including a word frequen the students' textbook (provided the items approximate to those used i

al speech situations); udents' reading material (e.g. simplified readers, literary texts); and lexical errors taken from students' free-written wo

The following error, however, may be one of verb patterning or simply the wrong ch Is the government going to contribute the new industry? 51

If an error of verb patterning, the correct version would be Is the government going to contribute to the new industry? If caused by the wrong choice of verb, it would be Is the government going to subsidise the new industry?

ffectiveness of distractors in multiple-choice vocabulary tests, those distractors based on students' incorrect answers (a) the use of false synonyms (i.e. words with equivalent meanings to the key word underlined or shown in italics in the sentence but inappropriate in the particular context): I'd like to book two
in the circle, please.
seats = correct word chairs = false synonym

ntextually relevant items (i.e. words related to the context but different in meaning to the key word in the sentence): 'How much is a to Tokyo, please?'
'Nine hundred yen, and a return is sixteen hundred yen. single = correct word ticket = contextually relevant The test constructor is faced with a difficult problem if the testees have followed different

Such a situation is generally associated syllabuvls. with proficiency tests, in which.a student's suitability and potential for a

such well-known word lists as A General Service List of English Words (Michael West Longman), Cambridge English Le

I i the vernacular and the target language.

I y at his or her disposal must also be measured. An ability to discriminate between words is of the utmost importan language.

structures which the students may find difficult to comprehend. Similarly, tests of grammar should contain only those l

5.2 Multiple- choice is useful to distinguish between the following two major kinds of It items (Al multiple-choice vocabulary items:

Group A Choose the letter of the word which is the nearest in meaning to the word in italics. He's been very feeble since his illness. A. unwell B. thin C. foolish D. weak

Group B Choose the letter of the correct or best word to complete each sentence.
Have you heard the planning committee's the city's traffic problems? A. theory B. design C. propasal D . p ur p o s e ror solving

This section concentrates on Group A items and the next section on Group B. The following, item types are examples of four voc

m the stem is replaced by a picture. The testees see the picture and have to select the most appropriate word relating to the picture

A . r u nn in g
B. jumping C . s t a n di n g D. kicking

Type 2 Here the stern consists of a definition: the testees have to select th correct option to which

a pe rson who rec eives and pays out money in a bank

A. broker

B. accountant

C. creditor

D . c a s h ie r

Type 3 The stem consists of a lexical item: the testees have to select the best synonym or

A. support dilatory A . gr o w i n g g r a du a l ly la r g e r _ B. slow in getting things done C. D. B. advise C. cont radict D. damage

.s h o w i ng c a r e a nd e f f o r t .heavy with drops of water

erred to the previous three types in. so far as the 'problem' word appears in context. Vocabulary is much more usefully tested in conte

It's rained continuously for two whole days.

A . w it hout st opping B. heavily C . r egul ar ly D. at odd mome nt s

sable to provide fairly full contexts for vocabulary testing, especially at an advanced level. The fuller the context, h

We've had to put off the meeting until next week.'(postpone)

altering the meaning). However, where a word may be replaced by another in.a particular context, testees may ea

Guidelines for writing Items

ld be kept simple. If, however, the problem area is included in the stem (as in Types 3 and 4), the options themselve

ontext of a sentence. If this rule is observed, there will be less danger of the context providing important grammatic

item would be grammatically incorrect when put in the context. contemptuous

A. B. in thought .without a sense of humour


C. self-satisfied D. scornful


was contemptuous of the efforts of his friends to raise some money for the charity.

A. B.

.without a sense of humour


in thought

C. self-satisfied D. scornful ~(

ss of elimination. Thus, the test may have a negative effect on the testees: i.e. they will select the correct option not b

theatrical A. angry

B. histrionic

C. proud

D. foolish

be equally unreliable. In such a case. there will usually be a tendency for the more able students to think that the co

suffice A. be adequate
5 4

l B. harass C. acquiesce D. be contrite

he options should be related to the same general topic or area, while others prefer as wide a range of associations as p

activity where possible.'Item-2 Item 1 apparition apparition A. scenery A. skeleton B. ghost B. ghost C. nightmare C. magician D. castle D. corpse

ead a few ghost stories would probably select option B because they would associate apparition with the stories they

ch longer than the distractors. This is particularly true in a vocabulary test item in which the options take the form

deliberately wrong and need not be qualified in any way. a hitch-hiker _ A. B. C. D.

.a man who make s ropes .a person who travels about by asking motorists to give him free .an old-fashioned sailor .a boy who walks long distances

d clearly choose option B and would be correct in doing so. Consequently, if it is ever necessary to qualify a definitio the correct option will be disguised a little more effectively.

avoid using a pair of synonyms as distractors: if the testees recognise the synonyms, they may realise immediately tha The old woman was always courteous when anyone spoke to her. A. polite - B. glad

Even such near synonyms as glad and pleased are- sufficient to indicat to intelligent students that the since if glad were correct, pleased would probably also be correct.

an antonym as distractor. Options A and C in the following vocabulary item immediatel stand out; again, clever studen ascend A. go up

B. talk C. come down D. fetch 1

I 1

5.3 Multiple choice items (B)


section are more difficult to construct than those in the previous section. The problem is chiefly one of context: to

1. I saw a nasty

between two cars this morning. C. damageD. accident I i

A. happening

B. danger

2. I was speaking to Cathy on the phone when suddenly we were A. hung up B. run out C. broken down D. cut off 3. I should have returned this book last Tuesday: it is now five


A. postponed

B. excessive

C. overdueD. delayed

4. Nothing had been organised and confusion seemed A. inevident B. inefficient C. ineligibleD. inevitable 5. Tom always tries to help people, but recently he has been kind and generous. A. chiefly B. especially C. principallyD. fundamentally

out at least one of the options. These kinds of test items are useful in many respects but may possibly belong-more to tes

of getting a new job: I don't like my present one.

me of a girl I used to know. A. recalls B. remindsC. remembers D. recollects It is sometimes argued that many multiplechoice vocabulary tests

7. Ann

A. contemplating B. thinking

C. desiring D. hoping

consist largely of items such as the following and that these test only a knowledge of collocation. 8. The television station was
A. drowned B. stormed

after the announcement.

with letters and phone calls

C. delugedD. absorbed

this argument, unexpected collocations result from a creative and intuitive handling of language, which in turn de

ll items as the test the Although the collocations in such advisable to following may be tested l i i t i s u s u a y m i n a equally wel wthoutcontext, sentences. 56

9. Dr Heston charges a high A. fee B. profit

for his services. D. payment

C. salary

ollocations being tested here, for example, are: charge a fee/make a profit/receive a salary/make or receive a payment although it 10. I don't believe you: I think you're
A. saying B. talking 11. Iron will eventually A. wear 12. My driving A. expires

lies. D. telling

C. speaking

if grease is not applied. C. damage D . c o r r up t

B. corrode

B. passes out

at the end of this month. C. retires D . c o n c l ud e s

If separated from such contexts as the preceding ones, these test items would read:
9. charge a fee/profiVsalary/payment 10. say/talk/speak/tell lies 11. iron wears/c orrodes/damages/corrupts


.a licence expires/passes out/retires/concludes

In this type of item, however, each context requires a 'normal' reaction and takes no account of cultural differences. For example, in the following item B or D would be correct in certain societies since it is impolite to accept a gift without first vehemently refusing it. Emma cried out with gave her. A. delight

at the beautiful present Mrs White D . a n ge r

B. horror

C. dismay

such ambiguity, it is even more important than usual to provide a context for this particular kind of item. The following is a typical gue takes place in a doctor's surgery which has a pharmacy.


Can you tell me what time the doctor's (1)



It's open now. The (2)


will help you.


Excuse me. I just want to collect a (3)


it for some (4) No, it's for some cough (5) for a Here it is. This should soon (6)
B. surgery

your bad cough.

(1) (2) (4) (5) (6)

()A . o f f i c e ()A . p o r t e r (3) A. prescription ()A . p r e v e n t i o n ()A . m i x t u r e ()A . p r e v e n t

C . ho s p i. a l a r d Dt w D. s B. hostess C . w a i t r e sreceptionist D. dire ction B. recipe C. cure B. liquid C. medicine D . s o l ut i o n B. drink B. treat C. wash C. refresh D cure D. compound

hoice vocabulary item. The provision of a context, however, limits the test constructor to testing only the vocabulary associated w rather than fully contextualised ones in order to cover the range of

oviding a far fuller context will be determined by the purpose of the test and the test writer's own approach to the com

demanded, and the answer must differ according to each particular situation.
5.4 Sets (associated

words) g from the testing of collocations are avoided by the testing of word sets. In such tests the students' familiarity with

Type 1: Recognition
Read each of the following lists of four words. One word does not belong in each list - Put-a-circle round the odd word in each list. son father happy married engaged single arrive depart go away leave


Type 2: Production
Each group of words is related to a particular subject. Write down the part ic ular subject w hich is c onnecte d wit h each group of wo hand wrist dial face (= watch) theatre sister bed ward (= hospital) volume track head spool (= tape recorder) nursery lift slope snow (= skiing)

5.5 Matching items rom testing lexical items from different word classes. while Type

2 tests a mixed hag

of tense forms, etc. The result is that fo

xample, although there may a ppea r to be 20 word s fo r selection for blank (1) in Type I. in pra ctice there are only three which wou

two options (pull through, get away), since all the other options are either past tense forms or participles. Both items need to h efore, if a higher degree of reliability is to be obtained.
Type 1
Write the correct word from the following list at the side of each number on your answer sheet. Use each word once only. road broken lorry lying accident know policeman crossed travelling knocked pa v e m e n t left turned middle running forgot side looked hurt talk

he was crossing the (3). He was quite badly (4) and he - had to go into hospital for a few days. His left leg was (5) and both his arms were


'Was the lorry (9) very quickly?' he asked Tom. Tom told him all about the (10). 'I was (11) home from school and 1(12) the road. 1 (13) right but I (14) to look (15). In the (16) of the road I suddenly saw a lorry. I didn't (17) what to do, so I began to run to the other (18) of the road. Type 2

Complete the following sentences with the most suitable verb phrase from the lis c a me a bout running into pull through brought up broken out get aw ay falling out put off

?"Yes, the police are still 1. 'Did the prisoner manage to looking for him.' after the 2. The doctor thought Mr Benson w ould operation. and causing a disturbance. 3. The couple are always that we eventually parted. 4 . A nd s o it (etc.)

more efficient to test words from the same word class (e.g. nouns only in Type 1), or parallel tense forms (e.g. the past simple tens came about ran into pulled through
got away

yesterday and the police are still 1. 'I hear the prisoner looking for him.' 2. 'We were all relieved that Mr Benson after the operation.' (etc.) Type 3

From the list of words given, choose the one which is most suitable for each blank. Write only the letter of the on your answer sheet. (Use each word once only.), A. B. politely 'Write (1)

'but don't 'the teacher shouted (2) waste time. You must get used to working (3) , 'I've finished.' 'Please, sir,' a student said (4) 'No, you haven't,' answered the teacher. 'You haven't (5) finished until you've ruled a line at the end.' Meanwhile, the boy sitting next to him was (6) engaged in drawing a map.

.c o m p l e t e l y C. busily D. carefully .

E. quickly F. angrily

e adverbs. However, like the other two types, this type gives the student-too little choice. For instance, there will be only one word left

A. B. C. D.

comple tely heavily ably pol it el y

E. F. G. H.

deliberately busily hast ily carefully

I. quickly J. hardly K . a n gr i l y L . s ui t a bl y 59

at (6) instead of the correct option busily. This illustrates one of the dangers of this particular testing device: clearly i

s of similar meaning in the passage. Since a detailed context is provided by the passage and little additional materia

to test that word again in the vocabulary section.

ng vocabulary test. Thus, the reading text contains only questions on vocabulary and does not include comprehens

individual words selected for the vocabulary test.

candidates in the test are instructed to replace the words listed below with the appropriate words contained in the pas groups

owned specific made up chief knowledge similarly close to each other were inclined work together

ated through the male line and the man who led them was the hunter who had the greatest experience of the hunting g

items bulary items which have appeared in certain tests. While Types 1 and 2 are useful for classroom testing, Types 3 and 4 ar possible. _

5.6 More objective

l I

Type I: Word formation test items

(a) Write a word in each blank. The word you write must be the correct form of the word on the left. when you cross the road. Be (i) CARE To mistreat animals is a form of (ii) CRUEL ? ( ii i ) I N T E R E S T D o y o u t hi n k t h i s bo o k i s to the cave? Can you show me the ( iv ) E N T E R

(b) Rewrite the following paragraph putting in each blank the correct form of the word in capita MOMENT ?'Peter asked his brother. He thought he Can you spare a look of impatience on his elder brother's could detect a face, but it was gone in an instant. 'I'm very busy at the ' his elder brother said. What is it you want to speak to me about?' he asked Peter. Peter's mind importance,' his 'Well, then it must have been nothing of blank.'I've went elder brother said rather sarcastically. Type 2: Items involving synonyms (a) Write in each space the best ward to replace the words underlined in each sentence.

()Tom went at once t o t he doctor''s. im me dia t el y ()All of a sudden there was a loud cry. ( iii) ()I c ame across an int eresting book. (iv) The boat is over fourteen feet in length.
( i) (ii)

(b) In each space write one word that means almost the same as the word on the left. The word you write must rhyme with the word on the right. E x a m p l e : e a r l y soon (i) (ii)

purchase miserable

moon die bad

nolo gica l element (r hyming) in 2(b), however, may only confuse testees instead of helping them. Words are tested in isolation, s

Type 3: Rearrangement items

Rearrange the following letters to make words. Then use each word in a sentence of your own so as to show ROLRY CELPA PLEAP EGURA SUHOE IRACH

As can be seen, this item is little more than a crossword puzzle. It may, perhaps, be of some use in an intelligence test


Type 4: Definitions (a) Use each of the following words in a sentence so as to show the meaning of the word. economy politics industrious (etc.) (b) Explain the meaning of each of the underlined words in the following phrases. an archaic word a fortuitous event I

e v en f o r n a ti v e s p e a k e r s t o p r o d u c e s e n t e n c es ' t o s h o w th e meaning' of words - and it is certainly not a useful task. A student m

1 5 .7 C o mpl et i on i t em s

ems can be used for the testing of vocabulary. Tests which present such items in a context are generally preferable to those which rel Type 1

ssage containing a number of incomplete words. Write each completed word on your answer sheet at the side of the appropriate num
Snakes are one of the (1) d- m-n--t groups of (2) r-pt there are at least 2,000 different (3) sp-c-- s of snakes (4) sc- t d over a wide area of t he eart h. Not all snak es are (5) p--s- n--s: in fact, the

(6) m - j y are quite harmless. Contrary to (7) p- p- I- - belief, a snake's (8) f-- k-d tongue is not (9) d- ng to human beings: it fs merely for touching and smelling (10) s- bs-- n--s. Snakes (11) in--ct poison into their (12) vi 's body by (13) b-t--g him with their (14) f--gs.
Type 2

(a) Complete each blank with the most appropriate word to replace each number in the text.

What's the (1) today?

It's the seventh. At what (2) does the concert start?


Seven o'clock, I think. Just a moment. I made a note of it in my (3). ROSNAH: How long do you think it'll (4)? MOHAMED: It finishes about ten.

(3) (4)


That's quite a long (5), isn't it?

I suppose so. It's three hours.

he range of possible answers, especially with 3, 4 and 5 (e.g. 3: diary, notebook, exercise book; 4: last, take; 5: time, c performance).

6 2

(b) Complete the following paragraph on problems caused by weightlessness by writing ONE word in place Increasing is now being weightlessness on man. For , scientists are on the effects the --role of gravity on the way cells function. Even in the first manned spaceflights doctors were largely unaware of the various p r o bl e m s by absence of gravity. that in the redistribution of They foundother blood and w eightlessness fluids from the legs to the top of the body. They were able how astronauts' legs actually shrank and their faces to swelled during the first few days of space flight. Moreover, doctors had astronauts both at the time of the flight a chance to of television cameras and after the flight during by into the extensive medical Scientists areof reducing some of the p r o bl e m s effectsofdietand by weightlessness. , most of the fundamental scientific questions will never be satisfactorily by scientists working on the Earth.

nsion is necessary before each of the blanks can be completed. The items have been included in this chapter because there is a de

Notes and references I Goodrich, H C 1977 Distractor Efficiency in Foreign Language Testing. TESOL

Quarterly 11

Cohen, A D 1980 Testing Language Ability in the Classroom. Newbury House

2 See Harris, D P 1969 Testing English as a Second Language. McGraw-Hill, pp. 54-57.

3 North Western Regional Advisory Council for Further Education, April 1983, English as a Second Langua


Listening co - mprehension tests
6.1 General

rehension. Although the auditory skills are closely linked to the oral skills in normal speech situations, it may some

not dependent on spoken responses and written exercises.

ing asked. If the speaker slurred over got to, the question would still be intelligible. In addition, meaning might also be

understanding of spoken messages.

verbal messages. Moreover, occasional confusion over selected pairs of phonemes does not matter too greatly because 4

) material when the latter is read aloud. Written tests generally omit many of the features of redundancy and impart

delivery, for the longer the segment the greater the amount of information and the greater the strain on the auditory redundant features.

ent the quality of a tape recorder, a disembodied voice is much more difficult for the foreign learner to follow. In practice

phoneme discrimination, stress and intonation are being tested.

thus a high degree of reliability. It is also possible to use recordings made by native speakers and thus present perfect m

production and use of authentic material.

onvenience, auditory tests are divided here into two broad categories: (i) tests of phoneme discrimination and of sensiti
Type 1 6.2 Phoneme discrimination tests This type of discrimination test consists of a picture, accompanied by (a)

three or four words spoken by the examiner in person or on tape. 1

2 3

The testees hear:
1. A. pin 2. A. shark 3. A. thin B. pen B. sock B. tin C. pair C. sack C. fin D. pain D. shock D. din

After each group of four words the testees write the letter of the most appropriate word for that pic


3.B 65

i ly, four pictures may be shown and only one word spoken. In this case, it is usually better if the word is spoken t N i

The testees hear: 1. pain pain (= D) 2. sock sockB) (etc.) Type 2 The testees hear three sentences and have to indicate which sentences are the same and which are different. bend in the middle of the road 1. A. There's a B. .There's a bend in the middle of the road. C. .There's a band in the middle of the road. 2. A. Is that sheet over there clean? B. .Is that seat over there clean? C. .Is that seat over there clean? 3. A. I've just locked the car in the garage. B. .I've just knocked the car in the garage. C. .I've just locked the car in the garage. (etc.)

Type 3 (a) In each of these items one word is given on tape while three or four f e printed in the answer booklet. The testees are required to choose the written word which corresponds to the spo C. Ben D. pen B. den 2. Spoken: win C. wane D. win Written: A. when B. one 3. Spoken: plays Written: A. plays B. prays C. pays D. brays (etc.)

1. Spoken: den Written: A. ten

1 I I

ype of item is similar to the previous one; this time, however, the words spoken by the tester occur in sentences. The fo 1.
Spoken: I'll thread it for you. Written or spoken: A. thread

B. tread C. threat D. dread

D. train

2. Spoken: Did John manage to catch the train? Written or spoken: A. drain 3. Spoken: Put the pan in some hot water. Written or spoken: A. pan B. pen C. pin

B. chain C. plan

D. pain

(c) This item type' is similiar to Type 3(a): one word is spoken by the

ably twice). However, instead of a choice of four words, testees have in front of them a choice of four definitions. They h 1.
Spoken: cot - cot Written: A. stopped

and held B. a baby's bed C. pulled by horses D. a small pet animal covered with fur 2. Spoken: threw-threw Written: A. made something move through the air B. not false C. some but not many D. made a picture or diagram on paper 3. Spoken: bud - bud Written: A. part of a tree or a flower B. a creature with wings C. something to sleep on D. not good

later on specific pronunciation difficulties. The items are perhaps more useful when testees have the same first languag

range of sounds.

if he or she cannot understand the definitions in the options. Similarly, Type 3(a) is a test of phoneme discriminati

it for you.

ems should be avoided. This may seem to be a simple enough principle to observe, but the avoidance of difficult lexical


would not be suitable for inclusion in a test intended for elementary learners of English. Much of the material in such tests is unfortunately very artificial, differing greatly from spontaneous speech. Frequently there is a tendency for the tester to adopt a certain tone-pattern and rhythm which may be a source of irritation to the listeners or affect their concentration. However,
sack, shock
-.51 -- -8

hanges pitch (e.g. live, leave, live) this will only confuse the listeners. Thus, the tester must attempt to pronounce ever 1 the same stress and pitch patterns.

cts fail to make some of the vowel and consonant contrasts and thus, in addition to all the other variables (e.g..the ac I
6.3 Tests of stress and intonation

onemes, tests of stress and intonation are on the whole less satisfactory than the phoneme discrimination tests treated i

sentence stress. The testees listen to a sentence (usually spoken on tape) and are required to indicate the syllable wh cross in the brackets under the appropriate syllable.
Spoken: I've

just given THREE books to Bill. Written: I've just given three books to Bill.
( )1 11 1( ) (X) ( ) (I( I
Spoken: My FAther will help you do it. Written: My father will help you do it.

( / (X)( / I

)(( I ( 1 ( I ( )

V tely, this test lacks context and is very artificial. It tests only recognition of stress and is of limited use for ear-training p

1 ave understood the original utterance. The utterance is spoken once only, but the test is based on the principle that annoyance. etc.
Spoken: Tom's a fine goalkeeper. Written: Tom's a fine goalkeeper.

The speaker is A. .making a straightforward statement B. .being very sarcastic C. .asking a question

1 0

Spoken: You will send me a couple of tickets. Written: You will send me a couple of tickets. This is probably A . a re qu e s t B. a command' C. an expression of disbelief Spoken: I'll help Ann. Written: I'll help Ann. The speaker is A. reluctant to help Ann B. eager to help Ann C. making a plain statement

n hard to avoid ambiguity. There is also a danger of inventing-odd interpretations or of concentrating on the rarer meanings: e.g. sa

6.4 Stat ements and di a l o g ue s

e for use in tests administered in the language laboratory but they do not resemble natural discourse. The spontaneity, redundancy,

interpreting what they have heard or by adding further information, as in real life. Such communicative responses, although ideal

be borne in mind when communicative proficiency tests are being constructed in other words, when the te

out what students can do with the language they are learning.

nsion or a test of listening comprehension, depending on whether the item is written or spoken. It tests the ability to understand bo

four written paraphrases.

Spoken: I wish you'd done it when I told you. Written: A. I told you and you did it then. B. I didn't tell you but you did it then. C. D.

. .I t o l d y o u b u t y o u d i d n ' t d o i t t h e n . .I didn't tell you and you didn't do it then.

Spoken: It took Alan a long time to find he couldn't mend my bicycle. Written: A. After a long time, Alan realised he was unable to mend my
bicycle. B. Alan spent a long t ime mending my bicyc le but he w as at last successful. C. Alan w as a long time bef ore he found my bic ycle. D. In spite of searching for a long time, Alan couldn't find my bicycle and, therefore, couldn't mend it.

t h e grammatical, lexical and phonological difficulties in the stem, leaving the written options free of such problems and at a lower le

e item types are moresatisfactory than Type 1 insofar as they mpt to simulate speech situations. The testees listen to a short question and have to select the correct response from a choice of four p Spoken: Why are you going home? Written: A. At six o'clock.
B. Yes, I am. C. To help my mother. D. B y bus.

Thus, in the previous item, option A would appear correct if the testee had co nfused Wh y with Wh en, a nd o ptio n D if he or she had

option B, considering it the answer to a Yes/No question. The question types should be varied as much as possible and Yes/No questions included as well as Wh-questions. Spoken: Does Alison mind you playing the piano? Written: A. Yes, she's always thinking about it.
B. No, she rather likes it. C. No, she doesn't play the piano. D.

. .Y e s ,

she must be careful.

to mind in order to tempt any testee who has failed to understand the question a cc ura tely. Distra ctor C ha s been in cluded to a ttr a Alison playing the piano.

o test comprehension alone and not the ability to select an appropriate reply to a stimulus. It is possible that a student who fails to 1 correct reply.

rthermore, each-statement or question which provides the stimulus in this type of item usually takes the form of an isolated item p of context and occur 70 ther unrelated items. Consequently,

nce of mental gyrations, suddenly jumping from one situation to another. Nevertheless, this item type is useful for

e to the discrimination items

6.5 Testing c om pr e h e ns i o n through visual materials previously discussed

as they involve the testing of grammar and lexis through phonology. P

cture but some are correct and others incorrect. The testees have .to pick out the true (i.e. correct) statements and


1. The lorry's on the left of the motorcyclist. -2: The car's travelling in the same direction.
3. 4. 5.

.A dog's running in front of the car. .A little girl's running after her mother. .She's holding a doll.
6. Her mother's carrying a bag. 7. .The two boys are looking in a shop window. 8. .A very small boy's helping the old woman. 9. .The old woman's going into a shop. 10. .A tall man's posting some letters. 11. There are a lot of cars in the street. 12. The two boys are on the same side of the street as the little girl.


1. 2. 7. 8.

3. 9.

4. 5, 10. 11.


6. 12.

tudents have five pictures in front of them. They listen to four sentences, at
B 3.

the end of which they are required to se

4. A

1 3

L_ .


0 C

The testees hear:

1. The car's going to crash into a tree. 2. Danny can't run as fast as Claire.


cles and triangles) can be

4. .The switch is so high that Katie can't reach it. The testees hear: 1. Both car doors are open. 2. It's daylight but both headlamps are on. 3. The man who's options the test lying underneath it. drawn to function as repairing in acar is of elementary comprehension.5 Illustrations 4. Although the girl sees the man working hard, she doesn't help him.
Thus the testees are able to narrow down the choice available to them as

.Tom wishes his sister could play tennis with him.

of this natur

(Only A show s one door open) 2. B D E (Only, , C shows the headlamps off) (Only E shows the man standing up) 3. D (Only B8shows the girl helping the man)

Look carefully at each of the four diagrams. You will hear a series of statements about each of the diagrams. Write down the app
1. B C D E

4. D

es see a set of three or four pictures and hear a statement (or a short series of statements), on the basis of which they have to 1 select t

Spoken: 1.

A (i


1. A: Look! What's that inside the square?

s: It's a white circle.


Is that a black circle? Whereabouts? A: Above the square. a: Yes, it is. It's a black circle above the square.
A: B:





Is t he w hite c ircle on the lef t of t he square?


No, it 's on t he right of the s quare .

W e st F er ry

4. Is there anything at all in the square? B : No, it's completely empty. There's neither a white nor a black circle in the square. 5. A : There's nothing at all under the s quare , is there? a: No, you're wrong. There's a black c irc le under the square. 6.
A : What are you looking at? a: I'm looking at a square. c : W hic h s quar e? D : The one under the black circle, of course.

7. 8.

Is the circle on the left of the square? a:-No, it-isn't_The-square's H e a d A v e n u eof the circle. on the left
A: A: B:


Wha t 's unusua l abo ut t his dra w ing? GovOefrfnicmees nt Well, there's a black circle inside the square. A : That's not unusual. There are two squares with black circles inside. a: But this one I'm looking at has a white circle just outside the S ta d i u m Un i v e r s i ty square. Station

i w an est isunderstanding of complex structures canon which it is based was suggested by often a temptation for the police- chase. in the form o a dialogue. The idea be tested in this way. However, there is an actual robbery and a test writer to b )


.. .- . ,-


Green Lane

s 1

Football Stadium Bramhogi, Avenue

Short conversational

Bus Station


R a i l w ay S tation

Regent cE Lane 3 as in the first example of Type 4 are = 1 =

Spoken: If the thick line had been only a millimetre longer, it would have been the longest of the three lines. Central

Indoo r Marke

r, are scarcely valid tests of the ability to understand

i natural discourse. Nevertheless, Ritz Cinema

I such items are of some use for purpo certain


Oxfo d Street



leir's Shop

assess the testee's ability to understand simple instructions. Any street map can be used or adapted for this purpose (see the exam Central

South Street

I Have you heard about the raid on the jewellery shop in Clifton Road? B: Yes, in fact, e direct ion of Green Lane. Howe ver, you t ake t he lef t turning just bef ore y o u r e aI h G r part L a n e . A t t h e e nwasf extraordinary. u t u r n r i g h c saw e e n of the chase. It d o t h e s t r e e t y o A : I've only heard a very vague report about it. What exactly

C i ty H a l l

L ibrary

happened? (Which building will you and you will see on your rightWell, the thieves planned to rob the shop you know, Wilson's in e: see?) Clifton Road just after it'd opened early yesterday morning. 74 75

as being taken from the safe into the big display window. They arrived in a large red car which they parked on the opposite side of the r

1. x : Write the letter A on your map at the place where the thieves parked the car.

d t he b r i e f c a s e s w i t h j e w e l l e r y . W ha t t h e y .didn't know, though, was t hat another as sis tant was in t he room at the bac k of the shop. _

2. x: Write the letter B at the junction referred to by the speaker.

A : So t hings went wrong f or t he robbers from the start ? a : Yes. By the time they were leaving the jeweller's, the police car 1

the car doors properly as they set off in the direction of the football st adium. A passe r-by heard one of the men tell the driver to take th

3. x: Where did the thieves lose one of the briefcases? Write the letter C on the spot. a: But that wasn't the end of it all. When they looked back, they saw the police car gaining on them.

turned left and then they turned right. The n t he y s wung int o a narr ow s t re e t and st o pped a f ew y a rds d o w n i t a t t h e s i de o f a s e c o nd

4. x : Whe re w as the get away c ar parked? W rit e D on your map.

A : Had they managed to throw off t he polic e car? B: No. As they were about to change cars, they heard it coming up

he end of the narrow street, they turned left i nt o H i ll i a r d R o a d a ga i n a n d s p e d o f f i n t he d i r e c t i o n o f t h e stadium. At the next but one

5. x: Write E at the place where the robbers were forced to stop.

A : What on earth did they do then? a: Well, by this time, they were really desperate. The driver of the

red car got out and fired a pistol at the police car. But this didn't

s t o p t h e po l i c e . O ne o f t he m s c r a m bl e d o v e r t h e bo n ne t o f t h e police car and chased the man with the pistol down Hilliard R 76

The man ran in the direction of the City Hall and then took the first turning left after Regent Lane. Then he made as if to turn right, seconds, two policemen were on him. 6. x: Where was the man caught? Write the letter F to show the place.

Whe re w ere the other t wo robbers while all this w as happening? a: Well, by t his time one was half way passers-by chasing him. He slipped through the r row alley at n

e end of the lane and t urne d right before das hing across the road. He got most of the way down the road to the station before o n e o f t h

7. x: Where was this robber caught? Write the letter G to show the place.

soon caught t he t hird man. r had a shotgun and he'd sprinted along Regent Lane and into Main Street. He was about to set uff running in the }ircioote aeTehcuhshoa d t nf hm t h ea t i t f e r . n k g g

middle of the road, pointed his gun at the bewildered driver and shouted to him to stop 8. x: Write the letter H to show where the robber stopped the va-i. e: Then he got into the van, started off down Main Street and

bus s tation! He quickly turned round and headed up Main Street. Next he took t he road leading to the main entranc e of the football stad

9. x: Write the letter I where the two police motorcyclists were.

and t ruly c ornered by now.

ots at the motorcyclists. Then he reversed and jumped out of the van at the end of the road. He turned in the direction of the City Hall. He h 4 10. x: Write the letter J to show where the third robber was caught. A: And so at last he was caught! a : Yes, and so was the manager of the jewellery shop.
A: What on earth do you mean? a: Well, the police have just - found that it wasn't real jewellery at all. It was imitation stuff. SoThe jeweller's been arrested for fraud!

many other ways'of exploiting visual materials for testing simple listening comprehension. The following kind of item may be usef 1. 2. 3. 4.

.Draw a straight line AB three centimetres long. .Continue the line AB to point C so that AC is twice as long as AB. .D r a w a p e r p e n d i c u l a r f r o m p o i n t B . .M e a s u r e a n a n g l e 4 5 ' t o b e c a l l e d D A C .



5. Now draw the line AD until it meets the perpendicular at point D. Question 1: How long is AD? 6. Now join DC. Question 2: What does angle ADC measure? 7. Draw a line from point B parallel to AD and mark the point X Wh - efe it bisects CD. Question 3: How long is BX? 8. Now draw a line from X parallel to AC so that it bisects AD at Y. Question 4: How long is AY? Question 5: How many figures have you drawn? What are the y? I i [ T

ich the testees are presented with an incomplete picture (usually a simple line drawing) and are required to add to item: (The testees look at the picture)


1. 2. testees hear:


.D r a w

a table and two chairs in front of the caf?. two traffic lights on the opposite side of the road.


3. Draw a z ebra-c rossing betw een t he Ox ford School and the cinema. 4. Draw a lorry travelling in the opposite direction to the car just before the junction. 5. A policeman directing traffic is standing in the middle of the junction. Draw him. 6. Although there's only one tree at the side of the office building, there are two trees on the opposite side of the road. Draw them. 7. Som e pe ople ha v e c om plai ned abo ut t he da nger of cr os si ng t he ro ad be twee n the caf ? and t he cinema. A pedest rian footbridge has now been built at this point. Draw it. 8. A man who has be en cleaning the w indows of the second f loor of t he

office building opposite the caf? has forgotten to take his ladder away. It's still leaning against the window on the building. Draw it.

simple country scene involving the drawing of cows, trees, tents, pots and pans, rivers, bridges, fish, birds or an indoor

insufficient room to draw all the various objects required.

omprehension test to instructions in single sentences. The following listening test; constructed by a teacher some tim



, .

Look at the drawing and listen to the sentences. You will see Mr Peanut sitting at a table. Do what I tell you and co matter if you cannot draw very well. Are you ready? Now begin. 1. Mrs Peanut is sitting on a chair opposite Mr Peanut. PUT HER IN. 2. The door is behind Mr Peanut's back. PUT IT IN.

3. Mr Peanut can see Mrs Peanut but he can't see Charlie because Charlie's standing behind bim. PUT 1N 79-

The test was later put into the form of a short narrative and found to be far more interesting:

your picture. (Pause) Their small pet dog was asleep under the table halfway between them a little nearer Mr Peanut th

at once becomes interesting. The following diagram is used for a listening test based on the reconstruction of actual b PICTURE 0



0.5 P.M .




Mc DON PA..0 :





plan of the warehouse roof are given to each student so that they can draw the positions of the individuals at the


examining bodies frequently use pictures based on a listening comprehension talk in order to test students' ability an example' of such a type of item.

In this part you will hear a talk about drawings made by chimpanzees and children. You will hear inform
1. identify

the nine sentences, from A to K below, which are about the development of a child. Number them in the order they occur. Write the numbers 1-9 in the boxes.

2. classify the diagrams by writing above each diagram an appropriate symbol from Key CD Child only CP Chimp only
Both Not in the two stages described


II1 I ,11 . .


A. shapes inside circles B. single lines C. human figures D. single shapes E. overlapping shapes F. regular patterns G. unconnected lines H. everyday objects I. rows of shapes J. masses of connected lines K. human faces

Type 9 Simple paper-folding and drawing can also be used to measure ability to understand instru

six inches under it. Draw a small circle on the line and on the right of it draw a square roughly the same size as the cir

d in the administration of this type of test. Although useful for ordinary classroom purposes, such tests are difficult to ad 81

rather than of language proficiency. The item writer must be careful to test only the student's ability to understand a

o understand bothalks and lectures and formal lectures is an important skill for students studying subjects in the medium 6.6 Unde rs t and ing t informal talks intermediate and advanced levels. Type 1 Testees listen to a short talk and select the correct answer about the talk.

ecome nervous wrecks. A loud blast or an exploion may even cause damage to our hearing. But there's another danger


Only one of the following statements about the talk you have just heard is correct. Put a circle round the letter next to t statement. A. Modern technology is now making towns in developing countries free of loud noise. B. The increase in noise is a problem which cannot yet be solved by modern technology. C. Gradual noise over a long period may have just as harmful an effect as loud or sudden noise. D. There is no real solution to the problem of increasing noise in modern life. Type 2 Like Type I this test combines listening comprehension with reading co:.preliension. The testees hear a short talk and then read a

blanks from the talk they have heard. The danger here, however, is that testees could successfully complete the writt

ake over many of our tasks, especially jobs of a repetitive nature. But it's highly doubtful if robots will ever be able to do an probably be used to do the cleaning, table-laying, scrubbing and washing-up but it's considered unlikely so far that they'll be used to do , the cooking at least, not in the near future. According to engineers,

ha n t h e y h a v e be en progr am me d to do by hum an be ings . A nd s o ro bot s in the ho me might not be creative enough to do the cooking p

factories, mobile robots would carry out all the distribution and I

s for new products. Human beings would still be responsible for diagnosing faults and for repairing and maintaining machinery. On the f a

straight line or between rows of vegetables.

e s w o uld p roba bly not l ook at a ll li ke hum a n beings because their design would be chiefly functional. For instance, it would not be at all

Writ ten: The f ollowing passage is a writt en summary of t he short talk you have-j-u-st-heard. Give the correct word w

Robots will do nothing more (5) than they have been (6) to do by human beings. A robot would be a kind of (7), freeing human beings so

be (11) in design. It would even be possible for a robot to have an eye in its hand or a (12) i

Unless they are allowed to take notes on the talk, the test may put too heavy a load on the memory. In certain instances, in fact, it m a

the test.

The following is an example of a test based on a (fictitious) novelist; the questions that follow relate to t influences on his childhood, the books he read at school, his first

publications, his travels, etc. The sheet given to each testee a few minutes before the lecture re
NOTE PAPER You are going to hear a talk about Charles Edward Blackwell, a writer of children's books. You are being test understand. After the talk you will be asked 25 questions about Charles Edward Blackwell. This sheet of paper is for any notes which you wish to take while you are listening to the talk. The notes will not be Marked in any way by the examiner. The quest ions you will be aske d aft er the talk will be about the points listed below. A space has been left to


1. What Blackwell enjoys doing 2. Blackwell's birth 3. 4. The

.His age at the time of

the economic depression

.The books Blackwell read (etc.)

testees may take notes during the lecture. They will later receive the following answer sheet.

g test ed on your abilit y to listen and understand. You now have 15 minutes to answer the questions which follow. The 25 questions follo xample:

This talk is about A. writers of children's books. B. children's reading. C. Charles E dw ard Black well. D. Leeds University. 1. Blackwell enjoys A. writing books for children.

Ex. C


. B. .giving lectures for writers. C. .reading books to children. D. .t a l k i n g a b o u t h i m s e l f . When Blackwell was born, his father
A. a cricketer. B. an inn-keeper. C. a writer. D. a factory worker.




) 3.

3. At the time of the great economic depression Blackwell was A. three years old. B. five years old. C. twenty-five years old. D. thirt y years old. 4 . W he n B : ac k w el l w a s a bo y , he r ea d A. B. C. D.

.b o o k s a b o u t c h i l d g e n i u s e s . .T o ls t o y ' s W a r a n d Pe a c e. .stones written for boys of his age. advice about writing for children.



This type of test is generally administered in one of the following ways:

es receive note paper and take notes while they listen to the lecture. .1-he are then given the question paper (usually multiple-choice items). 2 The testees receive the question paper first and are given a few minutes to glance through it. They then hear the lecture and work through the

emely difficult operation even for native speakers. Even multiple-choice items may cause confusion (especially if not c

3 The testees listen to the lecture and then receive the question paper

They read it through and then listen to the lecture given a second tim Although the testees will be listening with a purpose during the secon reading of the lecture, the criticisms made previously still apply.

Moreover, this test does not approximate as closely to a normal lecturin, situation a

lk in setting suitable questions. The importance of presenting real speech instead of written prose spoken aloud canno

speakers will be of real help in such cases.

elivery rate, increasing the length of pauses at the end of breath segments (i.e. units of meaning such as phrases. claus

simple sentences. It is most inadvisable to attempt to introduce other essential featur

e part of a reporter who had just returned from the country in question. The test proved fairly successful even thoug


The The

? We have no

stions which the 'reporter' was not expecting. Suddenly the interview came to life tand was far amorennatural and spon s atement st teme t
is true. is f a lse.

listening test had at once

They had a problem become valid. taking off because they w er e c a r r y in g so mu ch fuel.

emorisation of unimportant and irrelevant points in a talk (e.g. When was the writer's grandfather born?). There is li T hey sta r ted o n
J une 15th, 1919.

minimises the memory factor, but the test itself may then become more a they took off. --test of-note-taking-skills

It was foggy when

er (i.e. their general meaning and intention) and not the

They had a problem wh en so me th i n g f el l off t h e p l a n e d actual words u r i ngrammatical forms used to express or g t h e flight. T hey ha d

that m

dif f icul to cross The weary band of explorers managed ty f i n d i n gthe wide river in a very their way. small yac ht . They had no heating sn o w s to r m affected the engine. re T h e y we i n j u r e d w h e n they landed.

in The tired party of explorers succeeded in getting to th e other e. the pl a n bank A the great river in a tiny dinghy. of

s, e.g. evidence given in a court case, in which a speaker's exact words may have great significance Even in such circ T h e r e w e r e a l o t o f pr o bl ems on th e f li ght . ) perfectly the general meaning
Notes and references

s. If a summary of a talk is given for

N I Such item types have been used in the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate Lower Certificate in English but are now no longer used completion, the words omitted in the summary should be those words essentia in the First Certificate in English examination.
of 2 per cent errors made by native British speakers (Language Testing Symposium. Oxford University Press 1968). 3 This item type was devised by Elisabeth Ingram for use in the ELBA Test (English appropriate type of item should be used. Certain texts that the mostLanguage Battery). 4 Robert Lado made use of this technique in his

' -t


p erson




2 Elisa beth Ingr am repo rts tha t na tive spea kers o f A merica n English made up to II) per cent errors in the ELBA phoneme sub

comprehension test. It is essential, however,

Test of Aural Comprehension.

5 A version of this test item used to be included in the

while yet others are better exploited if followed by open-ended questions.

Graded Achievement Tests in English (GA TE) o f-the.Amer ican Lang

6 The test item wa s written by Da vid Bonamy and John Beverley. 7 Joint Matriculation Board, Test in English (Overseas), Oral Paper, June 1983.

ests since frequently the information being

8 For further details, see Richards, J C 1985 The Context of Language Teaching. C sought is ambridge University Press not contained in a text. It is just as useful to test the ability to b 9 The Royal Society of Arts: Examinations in the Communicative Use of English as

a Foreign Language, Intermediate level, Test of Listening, May 1983.



Oral production tests

bility to testing the speakingimportant aspect of language testing. However, at all stages beyond the elementary levels of m speak is a most

7.1 Some difficulties in

skills n extremely difficult skill to test, as it is far too complex a skill to permit any reliable analysis to be made for the purp 0

s as correct pronunciation remain largely unanswered. It is possible for people to produce practically all the correct s numerous errors in both phonology and syntax and yet succeed in expressing themselves fairly clearly. Furthermore, success i

, r as on the speaker: a particular listener may have a better ability to decode the foreign speaker's message or may shar

I munication simpler. Two native speakers will not always. therefore, experience the same degree of difficulty in underst 0 foreign speaker. In many tests of oral production it is neither possible nor desirable to

nsient, it is impossible without a tape 'recorder to apply such procedures as in the marking of compositions, where e

communication that takes place. because of the limited time involved. It is not difficult tdate the 1 1

r (though not insuperable) difficulty in oral testing is that of administration. It is frequently impossible to test large nu

ful of examiners. each student being tested for a period of. .say, ten or fifteen minutes. Although the use of language lab scoring of the tests has not been so easily solved.

r example, in one country the oral test was retained as part of a school-leaving examination simply to ensure that a

had to administer it. For this reason, and indeed, because oral testing programmes.

communication is generally rated so highly in language learning, the testing of oral production usually forms a

his chapter will give an idea of the range of possible types of oral tests. Some of the exercises (e.g. picture descriptions)

its high subjectivity, an extremely good test is the oral interview. In many cases, one or two sub-tests (or oral activitie


Reading a loud

his particular skill. The majority of students will never be called on to read aloud when they have left school. It is a pi

read aloud without making any errors?

rder to construct suitable tests of reading aloud, it is helpful to imagine actual situations in real life in which the testees

e faults in a car engine, how to cook certain dishes. For example, the following instructions relate to a situation in whic

ut the headset on. Make sure it is in its most comfortable position with the headband over the centre of the head. The mic 89

T o record, put the white switch to the position marked Work. Put the red switch to Speak and press the red recording button, which will n

nt extracts, however, it is advisable to draw up certain features which must be included in each passage: e.g. one Ye 0 degree of consistency can be achieved.

_ red to retell--a-ste-ry-they have-.just--read. If carefully constructed, such a test can assess most of the phonological elem i
7.3 C onv ersational exc hanges

e in any sense at all and do not allow for authentic interaction of any kind. The essentiah,element of constructive inter I I

such item types are on the whole reliable. but they cannot be described as being valid tests of speaking. if an opportunit

.e. geduine conversation and discussion). however. these controlled test items can he of some use in directing the attentio

rn or group of patterns. Again, it is essential that two or three models be given to the testees so that they know exac


Mrs Green lives in a flat. She doesn't like living in a flat and would like to live in a small house with a garden. (She wishes she liv
house with a ;arden.)

It's raining heavily. Tom and Anna are waiting impatiently at home to set off on their picnic. (They wish it would stop raini
would like a large car, too. 2. Anna hasn't learnt how to swim yet but most of her friends can swim. 3. Tom is waiting for Bill outside the cinema. The show is just about to start but Bill has not arrived yet. 90

1. Mr Black has a small car but his neighbours all have large cars. He


4. Mrs Robinson doesn't like living in towns; she wants to live in the country. (etc.)

of test item is similar to the previous type but not as strictly controlled.' No model-responses are given by the examiner a

A friend of yours has forgotten where he has put his glasses. He cannot see too well without them. What will you sa

ain heavily. Unfortunately, you and your friend have no raincoats. There is nowhere to shelter but your school is only a hu

1. You are trying to get to the public library but you are lost. Ask a police officer the way. 2. Your friend has just returned from a holiday abroad. What do you say him? 3. A waitress has just brought you the bill but has totalled it up incorrectly. What do you say to her? 4. A friend of yours wants to see a film about a murder. You have

already arranged to see it another evening, but you know she would be hurt if she knew. M

ear a stimulus to which they must respond in any appropriate way. 1 (This test often relies on conventional greetings. apolo Do you mind if I use your pencil for a moment? (Not at all/Certainly/Please do/Go ahead, etc.) What about a game of tennis?
(Yes, I'd love a game/All right. I don't mind/Don't you think it's a bit too hot?,


1. .Please don't go to a lot of trouble on my behalf. 2. .Oh dear, it's raining again. I hope it stops soon. 3. We shan't be late, shall we? 4. 'Karen asked me to say she's sorry she can't come tonight. Type 4 This is similar to the previous type of item, but the stimuli and responses form part of a longer dialogue and the situation is thus

se-ef its total predictability, however, this type of item is sometimes referred to as a dialogue of the deaf! The man in the You're on your way to the supermarket. A man comes up and speaks to you. MAN: Excuse me. I wonder if you can help me at all. I'm looking for a chemist's.

Thank you. Do you know what time it opens?

MAN: Thanks a lot. Oh, er, by the way, is there a phone box near here? 91




Oh dear, I'll need some coins. Do you have any change for a ?5 note?



Well, thanks a lot. You've been most helpful.

n't know,' and the man promptly thanks him and asks what time it opens. Nevertheless, the use of pre-recorded ma 1 Type 5 This item'- takes the form of an incomplete dialogue with prompts (shown in brackets in the following example) whispered in the students

You are at the reception desk of a large hotel. The receptionist turns to a dd r e s s y o u :

I help you? (You want to know if there is a sing .room available.)

Yes, we have a single room with an attached bathroom. (Ask the price.)


Thirty-four pounds fifty a night. (You want to know if this includes breakfast.)

Yes, that's with continental breakfast. (You have no idea what 'continental breakfast' is.)


juice, coffee or tea and bread rolls. (The receptionist is speaking too quickly. What do you say?)

Fruit juice, coffee or tea, and bread rolls. (Book the room for two nights.)


Certainly. Room 216. The porter will take your bag and show you where it is. (Thank the receptionist.)

esting the listening skills. Pictures of single objects can be used for testing the production of significant phoneme contr production the use of pictures for description and narration.

7.4 Using pictures assessing oral


d to describe the picture in a given time (e.g. two or three minutes). Occasionally, the number of words each studen

s made. The.seore is thus obtained on the basis of the number of words spoken and the errors made (hut this procedu I unreliable.) Separate scores for general fluency, grammar, vocabulary.


of description/narration are far better. Advertisements, posters and strip cartoons may be used in this way for clas from preparing one or two set pieces. Careful selection of the pictures used for the examination will help

sted by including maps and diagrams as well as pictures for comparison, pictures for instructions and pictures for de

mer Lucy spent a few days with her uncle and aunt in the country. When it was time for her to return home, her uncle and
sad on leaving them. She got on the train and waved goodbye to them Now you continue to tell this story. -. min

._ -

=Z 5Z 1


st effective type of oral examination using pictures requires not only narration or picture description on the part of the discussion about the picture(s) concerned. If the examiner asks

roduction skills can thus be measured. Even if no discussion is included in the examination, the examiner would be 1 doesn't know: long periods of silence will tell the examiner very little.

e previous chapter can be used to test oral production. The student and the examiner have five pictures in front of t the other four pictures. T _

picture according to the description, assessing the.student not only on the correctness and fluency of his or her speec

r I


ch other's picture. They can then discuss in which ways the two pictures are the same and in which ways they differ

chieve their purpose. Language errors which interfere with successful communication will thus be penalised heavily. On t

will thus be important for both examiner and students.

ture without showing it to the other members of the group. After each picture has been described and discussed in r

students are using language to achieve a certain purpose in this type of test. The following example's shows how simple it is to base such an activity on pictures already published, especially

_ r



6 _ ,
Two mules

i \a pr

7.5 The oral interview

e oral interview is highly subjective and thus sometimes has only low reliahility.In addition, the performance of a student I

means of assessing the total oral skill in a `natural' speech situation. Others. however, argue that the examination n

ensions and also to constraints of style and register necessary in such a situation. For example, many students adopt a attitude, while others become over-friendly.

he beginning of the interview, adopting a sympathetic attitude and trying to hold a genuine conversation (constantly

most difficult one.

s in pairs or even threes, thus not only putting them more at ease through the presence of a friend or classmate bu

l an inferior (i.e. the student) be required to address a superior (i.e_ the teacher) throughout the entire intervie

and purposeful way.

refore very important for the teacher or examiner to ensure that the two students forming a pair have similar or sy

he target language to achieve their goals rather than with their knowledge or their actual ability to accomplish the tas


appropriacy of language and effectiveness of communication and, where appropriate, the time taken to accomplish the task given. 1

hich case one of them can sit behind the student and score). Although this settles the problem of when the intervie I 1
(Tester) 'What are you going to do this weekend?' (Student A) 'I'm quite well, thank you.' (Student B) 'I go to fish. I fish in river near the big wood.

quite inappropriate: the student simply hasn't heard.ur"understood the question correctly. On the other hand. B's rep unfortunately contains several errors. 1

/ arking scheme (showing accuracy of pronunciation. grammar, vocabulary, appropriacy, fluency and ease of speech). Th

1 6 Excellent: on a par with an educated native speaker. Completely at ease in his use of English on all topics discussed. I 5 Rating Ability to communicate orally

not be mistaken for a native speaker, he expresses himself quite clearly. He experiences little difficulty in understanding English, and there is no s

a limited number of errors of grammar, lexis and pronunciation but he is still at ease in communicating on everyday subjects. He may have to co


native speaker may occasionally experience some difficulty in communicating with him. Repetition, re-phrasing and re-patterning are sometime I

peakers unaccustomed to 'foreign' English. His own understanding is severely limited, but communication on everday topics is possible. Large numb 0

Extreme difficulty in communication on any subject. Failure to understand adequately and to make himself understood.

a u

y cluster round the median 3 on a 5-point scale, examiners using a 6-point scale will have to decide whether to award 3 (

ends of this scale, most scores tending to cluster around 9-12.

fluctuation. Wherever possible, it is useful in public examinations to have two or more examiners listening for particula

degree of standardisation of marking is thus achieved.

onsidered the level and kind of oral skills the students should be expected to achieve. The optimum performance

inappropriate for the purposes of most classroom tests of oral English.

cts the average successful student to have achieved under each-of the headings by the time the test is taken. These

(band 1). The following is an example of a teacher's rating scale for the lower intermediate level.

, -



E fairly or three minor u n d ion. n t h e s or t f u e n t e d b y a t n effort with a a y o r t h e l i s t e e t opr es se aticaldand le xicalw r ' ds occasionally but only one or V ery few inte rrupt ywiin hlo u t c o o g r e t h ea mother-tongue. sTwfo wide rangenofr exgrammr s t aSe ar ches pfe a k eors intention and general meaning.two errors.

unnatural pauses.

clarifications required.

5 Pronunciation is slightly Has to make an effort at times to search for words. Nevertheless, T h e s p e a k e r ' s i n t e n t i o n a n d general meaning are fairly clear. A f ew interruptions by t he influenced by the mothersmooth delivery on the whole tongue. A few minor 1 a nd o nl y a f e w un na t ur a l pa u s e s . l is t e n e r f o r t he s a k e o f ammatical and lexical errors but most utterances are clarification are necessary. correct.

Although he has to make an Most of what the speaker says is easy to follow. His intention is effort and search for words, t he re a re not t oo ma ny unna t ural a lw ay s c le ar but s e ve ra l

4 Pronunciation is still

onologic al errors. A few arammatical and lexical errors b u t o n l y o n e o r t w o m a j o r errors c ausing confus ion. i n t e r r u p t i o n s a r e n e c e s s a r y t o help him to convey the message or to seek clarification. smoot h deliv ery m o s t l y . O c c a s i o n a l l y fragment ary but succee ds in conveying the general meaning. Fair range of expression.

Has to make an effort for much The listener can understand a lot of what is said, but he must of the time. Often has to search for s . e v e r a l meaning. c a l and lex ic al e seek some of but onl y a f e w s e r i o u s p h o n o l o g i c a l e r r o rtheSdesired g r a m m a t iRatherconstantly rrors, clarification. ha lt ing de liv e ry a nd f r agm ent a ry . C annot under st a nd m any of t he speaker's more complex or Range of expression often which cause confusion. longer sentences. I nited.

2 P ronunciation s eriously Long pauses while he searches f or t he desired me aning. ? Only small bits ( usually short sentences and phrases) can be understood and then with ue nced by the mother, tongue with errors causing Frequently fragmentary and breakdown in communication. a l t i ng de li v e r y . A l m o s t g i v e s u p c o n s i de r a b l e e f f o rt by s om e o ne h who is used to listening to the Many 'bas ic ' gram matical and making the effort at times. Limited range of expression.speaker. lexical errors. 1

Full of long and unnatural ous pronunc iation errors as w ell as many 'basic ' pauses. Very halting and Hardly anything of what is said c an be und er st oo d. E ve n w he n the listener makes a great effort or interrupts, mm at i ca l and l ex i ca l er ror s. f ra gme nt ar y de liv e ry . A t t im e s No ev idence of having unable to clarify anything he seems to have said. ste re d any of the language gives up making the effort. Very lim it ed range of e xpre ssion. ls and areas practised in the course. i

followed. The most important point to bear in mind, however, is that for mo st c lass roo m pu rpo ses th e r ating sc ale shou ld Inot ha

stage in their development. Finally, oral interviews do not simply happen spontaneously. Although each oral interview should simulate as natural and realistic a

speech situation as possible, it is essential that a certain amount of mat be prepared beforehand. The interview may be carefully structured or m be structured quite loosely: in both cases, the examiner should have ple of material on which to fall back if necessary. He or she may lead in to interview by asking a Yes/No question, followed at some stage or other certain Wh-questions and question tags. There are dangers, however, in adhering to a very rigid structure o

c and be proceeding happily in one direction when the examiner interrupts and stops the whole flow of the intervie stage: in a certain oral examination, for example, it was agreed that ? .. Whereabouts ought to signal a different response to Where2 . . .. Consequently. the more helpful students, who anticipated the interviewer. `failed' e.g .

Whereabouts do you live? (Requiring the name of the district where the testee lived.) STUDENT:341 King's Road, North Point.

North Point in a natural speech situation, the ?the person would probably have asked: Where(abouts) in North Point? In th subconsciously) and gave a full answer initially. given here to help, not to inhibit, the examiner:

Provided that flexibility can be retained, it is useful to prepare a serie of questions on a wide_range_o

family, home, school, sports, hobbies, books, films, transport, week?ends, holidays, radio, health, teeth, shopping, tra

, but the examiner should never attempt to 'work through' lists of questions. Indeed, the examiner should contribute

Sports and gam es

Do you play any games? What's your favourite sport? How often do you play? Are you in your school team? Do you like watching sport? Which do you think is the most interesting sport to watch? Can you swim? How did you learn to swim? Whereabouts do you go swimming? Which game would you advise me to take up? Why? Which is the most difficult game to play? Which is better as an exercise: basketball or football?

d necessary, current affairs and highly controversial issues may be introduced in an interview to stimulate or provoke a stu

discussion. It is even more important here that the examiner should remain flexible and vary the range of questions for discussion.

rdings, comparisons made and confirmation sought where there is doubt concerning a particular mark. If interviews are r 1

7.6 Some other techniques for oral They may be allowed several days or only a few minutes in which to prepare the talk and, in some cases, they may be , examining
The sheri"

amination can be improved slightly by reducing the time allotted for the talk and asking students questions based on the I examiner must make every attempt to put the-sat ease.

talk: Subjects about which an individual student knows very little should be avoided. Experience of such examinations h d can bring into the talk a genuine interest in the subject coupled with experience and imagination. A co-operative audience also helps greatly. Vague subjects are best avoided; many topics are best presented as questions:
Should cjuntries spend huge sums of money on space exploration? Do demonstrations serve any useful purpose? Do people ever really learn anything from the mistakes they make?
Group discussion and role playing

0 I

n and role playing the teacher can discover how students are thinking and using the target language. For example, to present ideas already well-formed? In this way, group activities in both and testing can be used to provide an opportunity for meaningful

ged in the mechanical production of verbal formulae or patterns. In short, language becomes a means to an end rat

interested chiefly in the message rather than in formal correctness. Several useful books have been written on group work (dealing with the size and nature of various groups) and on activities for group discussion. Generally speaking, the type of activity most suitable for group



m-solving activities and puzzles which abound in books and materials of various kinds, the type of task involving con

There is a small but very safe nuclear fallout shelter nearby, but there is room for only six people out of a total of twelve. pi.o:= a= a o t ml; e e r( e e fml) iy M F . t r N -a marine biologist, aged 56 (F) physicist, aged 25 (M) a a famous musician, aged 38 (F) -


farmer, age d 32 (M)

an electrician, aged 49 (M)

-a mathematics teacher, aged 34 (F) -a well-known footballer, aged 22 (M) - a-doctor, aged 63 (F) a- university student of sociology, aged 19 (F) a fireman, aged 33 (M) - a factory worker, aged 28 (F) a garage mechanic, aged 27 (M)

ble for the students to be given fictitious names before the role play, as these usually prove very helpful in encoura

observed and assessed in their use of English: in fact, it is usually important that the teacher or examiner does this as discreetly as possibl

The following is an example of an extremely simple role play suitable for use at the

One student acts the part of a police officer, another a bus conductor, a

enger hurries to get on the bus and jumps on as it is moving off. The conductor stops the bus and tells him that the bus

r each 'character' to he given a card on which there are a few sentences describing what kind of a person he or sheds, e 10: -

or control the discussion in as diplomatic a way as possible in order to ensure that each member of the group makes

General conclusions

) m a realistic part of the students' life. Continuous assessment by the teacher, with all his or her classroom experienc -

an oral interview involving two students; a short problem-solving activity involving the comparison or sequencing of pictures, etc.; - a longer activity comprising group discussion (concensus-seeking activity) or a role play.

en during the course itself and assessed by the class teacher in as informal a way as possible. The examiner must freq , section is considered harmful in its effect on teaching then it should be , omitted from the examination. -

0 1
I ,

Notes and references 1 This type of question has been used effectively in the

ARELS Oral Examination (Association of Recognised English Language Schools)

2 The example is based on an item type in the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate: Preliminary English Test (revised version). 3 This technique is derived from a similar one used by A. S. Palmer and described in the article 'Testing Communication' in IRAL (International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching), Issue X/1, February 1972. 4 Richardson, R (ed.) 1976 Learning for Change in World Society. One World Trust

nk Chaplen for use in assessing the oral skills of overseas students at British universities. (The scheme is, in turn, derived from the 6 Morrow, K 1982 Testing Spoken Language. In Language Testing (ed. Heaton). Modern English Publications 7 Royal Society of Arts, Tests of Oral Interaction: Degrees of Skill. The Communicative Use of English as a Foreign Language. 8 Bartz and Schulz, 1974
9 Barnes, D 1973

Language in the Classroom. Penguin

10 Based on an idea in Richardson, R (ed.) 1976 Learning for Change in World Society. One World Trust

Testing re ,ding comprehension

8.1 The nature of the reading sk ills

thermore, on a few language courses, efficient reading skills have been pushed into the background in an attempt

language. In spite of the wide range of reading material specially written or adapted for English language learning purposes, there are few comprehensive systematic programmes which have '??^ constructed from

ial is very closely related to the type of practice material used by the teacher to develop the reading skills. Few langua reading skills which the students have not yet developed in their own language. However, the mere fact that a studen -

another language.

ur examination of reading difficulties, it would be helpful to attempt to identify some of the specific skills involved in rea

recognise words and word groups, associating sounds with their corresponding graphic sy

deduce the meaning of words (a) understanding word formation (roots, affixation, derivation and compounding); (b) contextual clues (e.g. One of the members of the group exposed the plot, and the police were soon able to arrest the leaders.); understand explicitly stated information (e.g. 1 wish Ann had come. Ann did not come hence my wish.); understand relations within the sentence, especially (a) elements of sentence structure (b) negation (c) fronting and theme (d) complex embedding; understand relations between parts of a text through both lexical devices

) mmatical cohesive devices, especially anaphoric and cataphoric reference (e.g . he, they, it; the former, the latter) an however, in addition):

perceive temporal and spatial relationships, and also sequences of ideas; understand conceptual meaning especially , - ( a ) ()q u a n t i t y a n d a m o u n t I ( b ) ()definiteness and indefiniteness ( c ) ()c o m p a r i s o n a n d d e g r e e (d) means and instrument (e) cause, result, purpose. reason. condition, addition, contrast, concession; s

nticipate and predict what will come next in the text: identify the main idea and other salient features in a text;

oeneralise and draw conclusions; understand information not explicitly stated by (a) makino inferences (i.e. reading between the lines) (b) understanding figurative language: skim and scan (looking for the general meaning and reading for specific n information); - read critically; - xible approach and vary reading strategies according to the type of material being read and the purpose for which it No mention has been made here of reading aloud, since this particular skill is unique in that it involves different skills from silent reading. Two different kinds of complementary reading activities to which

usually exposed are generally classified as intensive and extensive reading. Short. reading extracts of a moderate de

ning features which merit detailed study form a basis for intensive reading practice. Whole articles, chapters and boo g

gg nately, most readin tests concentrate on intensive reading to the exclusion of extensive reading. probably because it


extensive reading at certain levels. In most tests, especially tests of general proficiency. it is useful to include a variety of text types for reading comprehension in addition to the

0 ,

ypes will not only provide a more realistic and reliable means of assessment but will also help to motivate students b

a newspaper article, thereby giving a genuine feel to the material.

ometimes the most suitable instruments for testing reading comprehension, they should not be over?used. Frequen

8.2 Initial stages of reading: matching tests

inistered as speed tests in the strict sense in the very early stages, word and sentence matching items should be

Word matching

The testees are required to draw a line under the word which is the same as the word o

now sheep bow/not/how/now/mow shop/shape/sleep/heap/sheep never/over/ever/fewer/even top/stop/tap/pot

ever top wonder wander/wonder/window/fonder/won has gone is gone/has won/has gone/his game/had gone clothescloth/clothing/cloths/clots/clothes most pleasant/more pleasant/most present/not pleasant/most most pl e as ant pea s ants

Sentence matching

This item is similar to the word-matching item. The testees are required to recognise as quickly as possible sentences which consist of the same words 107

same order. They read a sentence, followed by four similar sentences, only one of which is exactly the same as the pre
1. Tom is not going to your school.

.Tom is going to your school. .Tom is not coming to your school. .Tom is not going to your school. 2. The thief can hide in the jungle. A. .The thief can die in the jungle. B. .The thieves can hide in the jungle. C. The thief can be hidden in the jungle. TheIbief can hide in the jungle.

A. B. C. D.


is not going to your pool.

the remainder of this section the items will concentrate on word and sentence comprehension, using pictures to test th matching

Pictures and sentence

used to test listening comprehension and described under Type 3 in Section 6.5. The testees look at four pictures and 1 They are required to identify the correct picture.

They are cycling to work.

f ~


He is showing her the photograph.

hat only one picture is required for each item (instead of four). The testees look at a picture and read four sentences. 1

A. B. C.

.Jenny is throwing the ball to Peter. .Peter is kicking the ball to Jenny. .Peter is throwing the ball to Jenny.

A. The man under the tree is reading his book. B. The man resting under the tree is looking at his book. C. The man with the book is sleeping under the tree.

D. The man carrying the book is going to sit down under the tree

m, it could equally well take the form of a true/false item (in which the testees write T or F at the side of each sent tch the picture.

1 J

Four of the following

A. B. C. D.

sentences agree with the picture. Put a circle round the letter of each of th

.T h e d o g o n t h e f l o o r i s a s l e e p . .The baby is playing with the dog. .The baby has just broken a toy car. .T h e t e l e v i s i o n s e t i s o n f i r e .

1 o9

E. F. G.

.T h e

dog is behind the baby.

H. I. The two boys are listening to the radio. J. The radio is on the table but the book is on the floor under the table. 8.3 Intermediate and advanced stages of reading: mat ching tests

.The woman has taken the flowers out of the bowl. .O n e o f t h e t w o b o y s i s h e l p i n g t h e w o m a n . .T h e w o m a n i s g o i n g t o p i c k u p a b o o k .


e terms denote. The example shows how the matching technique can be used at a more advanced level and how it can lend 1 itself t

Some of the shapes are described in the dictionary extracts. Name o nl y t ho se t ha t - ar e des c ribe d in t he e x t rac t s . T his f ir st o ne has be e


) I

I t


I i )

and narrowing at the curl round pouring liquids or powders through small ope coil )(oil/ vt,vi wind or twist into a continuous circular or spiral shape; bottom, forand round: The snake -ed (itself) round the branch. n [C] 1

smoke of a steamer, railway engine, etc. vt, vi (? II-, US-I-) (cause to) move (as if) through a funnel. g c oi le d; a si ngle t urn of s om e thi ng coiled: the thick -s of a python. 2 length of wire wound in a spiral to conduct electric current.

lattice/'I ~ tis/ n [C] framework of crossed laths or me t al s t rips a s a sc re e n, f e nc e or doo r, or f or c l i m bi n g p

hich narrows to a point from a round, flat base. 2 something of this shape whether solid or hollow. 3 fruit of certain evergreen trees (fir, pine

p y r a - m i d i p i r a m i d / n [ C ] 1 s t r u c t u r e w i t h a t r i a n g u l a r o r s q u a r e b a s e a n d s l o p i n g s i d e s meeting at a point, esp one of tho g six equal square sides; block of something so shaped or similarly shaped. 2 (maths) product of a number multiplied by itself twice: The - of a pyramid. x 5 (125). vt multiply a number by itself twice:

10 -d is 1 000. sphere /sfia(r)/ n [C] 1 form of a globe; star; planet. music of the spheres, (myth) music produced by t h e m o v e m e n t o f h e a v e n l y b o d cu.bicikjubik/ adj having the shape of a cube; of a cube: one - metre, volume of a cube whose edge is one metre. cubicalikjubikal/ adj = cubic (the usual word). night sky. spherical /'sferikal/ adj shaped like a sphere.

k e of wood or lo g. 2 cused to s hape d chamber (in an engine ) in whic h to widen an opening a piston: a six---- engine/motor-car.thin end of the e a pol e or metal, y linde r- split wood or rock (by being hammered), gas or st eam works or to keep two things separate, the cy-lin-drical

ellipse/flliippss// n [C] regular oval. el li p tic / li p lc/, el lip ti cal/ adj shaped like

used like a wedge: --heels (on shoes).

vt fix

an ellipse. tight ly (as) wit h a wedge : - a door open, by placing a wedge under it. be tightly -d betwee f unne l/ f r - 4 n [ C ] 1 tub e or pipe w ide a t t he t op

owing item type 3 is included to provide another example of how reading compfehension matching tests can be based on the dictionar

more than a hundred still exist. The open settlements, the villages of predominantly unenclosed huts, are not numerous but only a d o z e n

they are only fragmentary.

ures, one roughly square and a larger one roughly oblong in plan with a shared wall. An area of six acres was enc l os ed co nt ai ning m or e t


he following dictionary definitions are for words used in the passage Settlements. Write the words from the passage next to the appropriate having or involving more than one part as an individual serving as representative becoming greater in size enough to meet a need or purpose having something in common in most cases is a sign of very near to; approximate broken off or incom_plete in existence; surviving

g item 4 is similar to the previous type but here testees are required to match appropriate words or information in the text with the 2 3 4 1 5 6 7 8 1 I

9 I

1 2 3... 4 5

6 7 8 9 10

Type 4 This item type involves the matching of a paraphrase of phrases

and sentences in a text with the original words in the text, each item starting with 'Instead'. Although of use occasionally in achievement of a text.

cy tests, this type of item is more suited to teaching than to testing as it can be used to help students to increase their

e asked to read a text and then complete each sentence. The item, however, calls for the matching of information and

It is important for each student to obtain at regular intervals a rough

ment do not impart a feeling of tension and strain, they can be used to guide students in their work and to inform them of the progress they are making

1. Instead of talking about using such methods carefully and wisely, the writer talks about applying them 2. Instead of saying that it is harder for the students to assess progress made in learning a language than in history, the writer says that

3. Instead of referring to ways of measuring studentsprogress at regular intervals, the writer uses the phrase 4. Instead of saying that students should try to assess and report briefly on their progress every week, the writer says that

5. Instead of saying that continuous assessment is useful unless it makes students feel upset and worried, the writer says that it is useful

8.4 True/false reading


btained by the testees can be very reliable indices of reading comprehension provided that the items are well constructed and that

more time for other tasks.

se test, however, has two main disadvantages: firstly, it can encourage guessing, since testees have a 50 per cent chance of giving a and thus the average test difficulty generally in the region of 75 per cent (= 50 per cent), the test may fail to discriminate widely eno among the testees unless there are a lot of items. It is, of course, possible to penalise the testee for guessing, and instructions on the lines of the following may be included in the rubric:

m a r k s . H o w e v e r , f o r e a c h wrong answer, one mark will be deducted from your score. It is better, therefore, not to guess blindly and to le

Such penalties, however, are of dubious value, and the whole subject of guessing is treated in greater detail in Chapter 11. i a third question in addition to the true/false option: e.g. true, false, not stated (i.e. the required information is
A c c ordi ng t o t he pas s age , a re t he f o llo wi ng s t at e me nt s t rue o r f a ls e, or is i t im pos si ble t o dra w any co nc lusi on?

, able test passages can be selected: a short reading extract, for example, can provide a basis for numerous item

of the true/false items.

/false items themselves) is being tested, each of the true/false items should be as clear and concise as possibl , ements is given to the students. Although this may make the test slightly easier for them, it does at least prese statement of the problem.

ng tests fall into two general categories: those which are independent of a reading text (Type 1) and those which d Type 1 It is possible to construct true/false items which are complete in themselves: a testee's comprehension of each true/false item is tested by means of a series of general truths. For example:
Put a circle round the letter T if the statement is true. If it is not true, put a circle round the letter F. 1. 2. 3. 4.

.T h e s u n r i s e s i n t h e w e s t . .F i s h c a n ' t f l y , b u t b i r d s c a n . .E n g l a n d i s a s l a r g e a s A u s t r a l i a . .When ice melts, it turns into water.



ed at elementary levels of reading comprehension, but it can be used equally effectively at more advanced leve

h a v e m e a n i n g s a n d p a t t e r n s o f profound significance. Gazing at

others' eyes generally signals

a request for information and p

from too long a mutual gaze. In fact, in intimate

situations, there seems rium to be an equilibinvolving proximit y, eye fact, intimacy of topic,


and smiling. If one component is changed, the others tend to change in the opposite direction. a f unc t ion muc h de e per t ha n that of maintaining a balance or ensuring a smoot h flow of conv ersation. I t s i g n a l s , n o t s u r p r i s i n g l y , a do m i n a nc e . A def inite peck ing order of dominance and subm iss ion emerge s from the very first eye contact of strangers. Curiously, when

on is possible, it turns out that the one w ho looks away first te nds to be dominant. The av erted eye is a signal t hat it s owne r is about look away will be the submissive one.

w e ll indic a t e an abnormal personality. Adult schizophrenics tend to use their eyes at all the wrong points in a conversation, and the bold

, s ix o f t he f oll ow ing st a t em e nts a re t rue a nd s i x a r e f a l s e . I t i s n o t p o s s i b l e t o d r a w a n y c o n c l u s i o n s f r o m t h e ' information in the pa

1. Looking at someone else's eyes or looking z.way from them me ans a pe rson is t hinking very d 2. We generally look t owards another person's ey es when w e want information or a sign of affection from that person.

3. If two people look too long at each other's eyes, they will us u a l l y be c o m e e m b a rr a s s e d.

4. We are usually puz zled by someone who f requently looks int o our eyes during a conversa 5. When engaged in very friendly conversation, a couple will

probably look less at each other's eyes the more they smile and the closer they sit.

6. It is easier to talk to someone in a friendly way if the person we are talking to does not gaze too long

7. Looking for a long time at the other person's eyes is only a me a ns o f c ont i nuing a c onv e rs at i on s m

8. When two people gaze for a long time at each other's eyes, it -is a sign that-they-are goin

9. An extended gaze can signal a threat or a bid for authority over the other person.

10. When two strangers meet, they use their eyes to control or influence the other or to show their surrender authority. 11. When it is possible to talk, the first person who looks away is the one who submits to the other person. 12. A person shows that he or she wants to talk by looking towards the other person's ey es.


13. People with poor eyesight generally stand or sit very close to t he person t hey are addres sing. 14. Abnormal people usually turn their eyes away from the other pe rs on's e y e s mo re of t e n t ha n nor ma l pe o ple do. 15. It is possible to tell the difference between a liar and an honest person by their eye-gazing patterns when both are trying to tell a lie. I

ich followed. It is possible (though not common practice). however, to construct a relatively simple text followed by mor

8 . 5 M u l t i p l e c h o i c e items (A): short texts

ally of at least as much importance as an understanding of the meaning of the words for selection. This, of course, is tru

1. The eyes are wonderful teachers even musicians, who deal with sound, learn as much by (doing, playing, watching, practising) as by listening. 2. The hous ewife w ho could not af ford t o buy clothes would spend

el, spinning her wool into yarn a job which took little skill but required a lot of (ability, patience, talent, w is dom) and w as done by t he f ires id

3. Two-thirds of the country's (fuel, endeavour, industry, energy) comes f r om im por t ed oil , w hi le t he re ma ini ng one - t hird co me s f ro m co al . Moreover, soon t he count ry will have it s first nuclear pow er station.


2 Just as the previous item type is closely related to the testing of

d to identify the correct paraphrase of a statement from a choice of four or five. They are told in the rubric that the (f

1. John is not as tall as Sally but he's a little

A. Sally is taller than John and Rick. B. John is not as tall as Rick.

taller than Rick.

D. 116

.Sally is taller than John but not as tall as Ric:_.

.R ic k is t a ller th a n Jo h n a n d S a lly.

2. In spite of the loud music, I soon managed to fall asleep. A. The loud music soon helped me to fall asleep. B. C. _ D.

. .I s o o n f e l l a s l e e p a s a r e s u l t o f t h e l o u d m u s i c . .The loud music made me unable to fall asleep soon. .I soon fell asleep even though the music was loud.

3. If you'd forgotten to put out your hand, you wouldn't have passed your driving tes A. You didn't forget to put out your hand and you passed your driving test. B. You forgot to put out your hand and you failed your driving test. C. D. You didn't forget to put out your hand but you didn't pass your driving test.

. .You forgot to put out your hand but you passed your driving test.

m on each reading passage. The actual construction of multiple-choice reading comprehension items based on a reading extract w

. The president was talking to a young woman in the crowd when Tim s udde nly c a ught si ght o f a ma n s t anding se v e ra l y a rds be hind he r.
What made Tim notice the man in the crowd? A. B.

C. D. He was carrying a stick.

.He was very close to Tim. .The president was talking to him. o t .He was standing in fronthfe w o m a n .

2. There were only two ways of moving along the narrow ledge: face

even the smallest of bott oms would push a pe rs on with his back to t he wall far enough out to overbalance him and so, with arms outstre

The writer managed to cross the narrow ledge by A. crawling along on his knees with his arms stretched out in front c him. B. moving sideways inch by inch with his back to the wall. C. working his w ay forward on his st omach w it h his f ace almost t ouching the le dge. D. walking slowly with his face and stomach close to the wall.

8.6 Multiple-choice items (8): longer texts

sts of reading comprehension. As was clearly indicated earlier, the extent to which a test is successful in measuring what it sets ow t


concentrate too much on developing only those skills required for intensive reading, encouraging frequent regressions and a word-by-word approach to reading? .

I -

y, in a test of proficiency the text should contain the type of reading task which will be demanded of the testees in later I

required to do in history or chemistry, etc.

te level, and 400 to 600 words at the advanced level. These figures are, of course, extremely rough guides and may

support a number of multiple-choice items even though the same extract myr aaolreu brreltmrpnne ao bsrgnmet ae soe- dd fm ia fa o fsi o e f /e u questions. Generally speaking, passages dealing with a series of events, a collection of facts, or different opinions and attitudes make the best types of texts for testing purposes; those with a single idea or main theme. are rarely suitable.
` 4? ' " '

shorter than a more straightforward one. On the whole, the difficulty level of the text, however, should coincide with the le

selected for enjoyment and should thus be at a slightly lower LC c. than the actual standard of the reading skills acquired. (The difficulty level of a text depends chiefly on the degree of the structural and lexical complexity of the language used.) I

r certain flaws in some of the items. Although a number of the flaws will be easily rectified, in certain cases it will Ibe nec 1

are difficult and 118

thn ' - always an advantage to

construct in the first instance more items than are actually required. If the text will not allow for more items, chosen to avoid wasting time at a later stage.

items testing the students' ability to recognise-reference features in a text, no matter whether multiple-choice, comple

t reading difficulties. If a student fails to perceive what the reference device 'it' refers to in the text, for example, th

The grizzly bear roams some 12 million acres in rugged parts of the United States. And this great bear sti


is part of its natural habitat. The word A. B. C. D.


in line 3 refers to

.'the United States' (lines 1-2) .' th is g r ea t b ea r ' (l in e 2 ) .' o u r i m a g i n a ti o n ' ( l in e 2 ) .'its natural habitat' (line 3)

r items than other skill tests. Furthermore, the testees require much more time to work through a reading comprehen

two minutes must be allowed for each item in the average rea* hen e t s l ( the time required to read the text is taken into account). Conseq ."''h tests, though long in terms of time, must of necessity be short in term of items and, therefore, less reliable. The construction of items depending simply on a matching of words_

ding of the text and should require the testees to digest and interpret what they have read. The following examples s

At four o'clock on September 30th two men armed with iron bars attacked a soldier in Priory
Imagine that a testee did not What happened at four o'clock on September 30th? A. Two neminsi deraden with rinot babblers tacklened a derisoldt.

understand much of the sentence in the text. In order to appreciate this fully, it slightly, and the text might appear to us like this:
At four o'clock on September 30th two neminsi deraden with


babblers tacklened a de

What happened at four o'clock on September 30th? A. Two neminsi deraden with rinot babblers tacklened a derisoldt

A slightly better item stem would be:

What happened one afternoon at the end of September? 119

ver, to be completely satisfactory, it would be necessary to rewrite both the text and the item, as in the following exam

was under the impression she had gone away from the locality. The last time he saw her was when Jane was teaching h

(first version) Paul was surprised when

A. B. C. D. A. B. C. D. .S u e w e n t a w a y . .h e m et Sue at t he party. .Jane was teaching Sue to drive. .Su e s ud denl y be cam e i l l .

(second version) Paul didnot expect to see Sue because

.he knew she was at the party. .he thought she had left the district. .he had seen Jane teaching her to drive. .h e h a d h e a r d s h e w a s

gures and dates are included in a text chiefly for the purpose of illustration or to show the application of a general princ

road accidents on the city's roads. 157 of all the fatal accidents involved motorcyclists or their pillion passengers, while

Over half of all the people killed in road accidents last year were A. motorcyclists and pillion passengers. B. pedestrians. .drivers of buses, cars and lorries. D. .both pedestrians and motorists. C.

i t

s may be required to perform: otherwise the test writer will be testing something other than language skills. The fol g

es in Saturday's floods. A further nine people, mostly children, are reported missing, believed dead. Seven small boys, ho

The total number of people reported dead or missing as a result of Saturday's floods is A. 7 B. 9 C. 16

D. 25

E. 32


st depend on a testee's comprehension of the reading text rather than on general knowledge or intelligence. The follo Memorising is easier when the material to be learnt is A. .in a foreign language. B. .already partly known. C. .unfamiliar and not too easy. D. .of no special interest.

d setting distractors which may be true, even though they may not have been explicitly stated by the writer. In the foll is the required answer; however, all four options are correct even though not stated in so many words by the writer.

What would happen if there was a global war? A. Nations would train men for war. B. Lots of terrible weapons would be made. C. .The whole human race would be completely destroyed. D. .People would grow very desperate. me length as the distractors. In the following test item the correct option has been modified to such a degree that The curriculum at the new college is a good one in many ways because it A. includes many science courses. B. offers a well-balanced programme in both the humanities and the sciences. C. is realistic. D. consists of useful technical subjects. All the options must be grammatically correct: there is a tendency especially in reading comprehension to overlook the grammatical

appropriateness of some of the distractors used. Option D in the following item can be ruled out immediately The writer says that he had studied engineering for A. a long time. B. only a very short period. C. several years. D. never. Double negatives are only confusing and such items as the following (based on the .extract on page Paul A. B. C. D. did not expect to see Sue because .he did not know she was at the party. .no one knew she had left the district. .he hadn't seen Jane teaching her to drive. .he didn't realise she was well.

A useful device in multiple-choice tests of reading comprehension is the option ALL OF THESE or N 121

1 1
According to the passage, what do some people think there should be out side a modern city ? A. B. C.

.B u s e s .C a r p a r k s .O f f i c e b u i l d i n g s

t as the correct answer in at least one of the items. The testees should not be encouraged to think that it has been options. The following text and comprehension items? illustrate some of the guidelines laid down in.this_sectio.n:
Study the following passage and then answer the questions set on it.

ncere and t ender film, as inde ed one would expect f rom a director of t he calibre of Marce l Lyrne. In addition to his keen sensitivity, Ly

e Captive Lyme manages to evoke the atmosphere of an English town in the early part of the dre ss , cus t om s , a nd m anne ri sm s. Sim il ar in theme to Adam Brown, The Captive is distinguished by a sincerity which the former lacks a 1

, squalid ship which is waiting t o t ake him t o Aus tralia. Robson bre aks l o o s e f r o m h i s c a p t o r s f o r a f l e e t i n g m o m e n t t o b i d f a r e w e l l his fist at Catherine's cousin. i ,

ul ed unde r t he s hip's k e el . I nde ed, e v e n t s m i g h t w e l l h a v e b e c o m e u n b e a r a b l e b u t f o r t h e l i g h t r e l i e f p r o v i de d b y t h e c o m i c a l a nt i

Questions (a) For each of the following statements choose the word or phrase that best completes the statement according to the information contained in the passage. Write the number of the question and the ans w er y ou hav e c hos e n in yo ur ans we r boo k .


(i) The Captive was directed by A . J o na t ha n B r o w n . B. Adam Brown. C . M a rc e l L y m e . D. Catherine Winsome. (ii) In The Captive Marcel Lyme conveys the atmosphere of the nineteenth century chiefly through A. close attention to small details. B. the use of conventional scenery. C. stage-coaches, old inns, and thatched cottages. D. depicting dramatic events of the time.

. B. .a r e a l i s t i c a n d v i t a l f i l m . C. .an ordinary adventure film. (iv) JonathanaRobsonr is f i l m . as a result of D. . s i n c e e angry A. .h a v i n g t o w a i t t o g o t o A u s t r a l i a . B. .b e i n g w r o n g l y c o n v i c t e d . C. .m e e t i n g C a t h e r i n e . D. .b e i n g r e c a p t u r e d . (v) On the voyage to Australia Robson
A . becomes ill. B. begins to have nightmares. C. is hauled under the ship's keel. D. receives a flogging: (vi) Bobo is introduced into the story to help us to bear the grim events by A. behaving in a strange but interesting way. B. making us laugh. C. doing everything without complaining. D. acting kindly toward the hero. ( vii) We can e ndure the he ro's suf ferings because we know A. things cannot get worse.

(iii) The passage implies that Adam Brown was A. a very moving film.

. .

. . . B. .t h e c r e w w i l l m u t i n y . C. .good will win in the end. D. .t h e h e r o i s v e r y b r a v e . (viii) The writer's attitude to this film is
A . a ppre c ia ti v e B. patronising. C. scornf ul. D. critical.

(ix) The word 'his' in line 3 refers to A. 'The Captive' (line 1) B. 'one' (line 1) C. 'a director' (line 2) D. 'Lyme' (line 3) (x) The words 'the former' in line 12 refer to A. 'theme' (line 11)


. .'Adam Brown' (line 11)


J .'The Captive' (line 11) .'a sincerity' (line 11)


D. ( xi) The w ord 'his' in t he phrase 'We share his sympathy' in line 23 refers to A. 'Robson' (find 21)

. B. .'his sick companion' (line 23) C. .' J o e B i g g s ' ( l i n e 2 4 ) D. .' t h e o l d s a i l o r ' ( l i n e 2 4 ) (xii) The word 'he' in line 27 refers to A. .' R o b s o n ' ( l i n e 2 1 ) B. .' J o e B i g g s ' ( l i n e 2 4 ) C. .'the comical antics' (line 26) D . ' B o b o ' ( l i ne

(b) Each of the following words and phrases c an be used to replac e one word in the passage. Find the words and write them in your answer book. Nui - nber your answers. ( i) dragged ( ii) c onquered (iii) troubles and misfortunes (iv) very brief (v) finally


8.7 Completion it ems

o open-ended questions in tests of reading comprehension, they are often regarded as belonging more to the objective category of tes

Why was the author surprised to meet Dr Short? and the equivalent completion item:

The author was surprised to meet Dr Short because

ne correct answer, the marxing will prove very difficult when the tester is confronted with a variety of answers ranging from accep ) regarded as correct.

g co mpr eh ens io n ar e divided into two groups for ease of treatment: Type 1 consisting of blanks for completion in the items follow

ed after a process of matching the whole item with the appropriate part of the text. However, less emphasis is placed on the writing


ired to fill in a table based on a passage for reading comprehension. The information extracted 2nd Floor, text is best from the
H ong Kong. 7th June, 1988.

Example 1

256 Weeton Road,

he city w ith t he highest t empe rat ure y esterday was Singapore. At noon .1 the temperature in Singapore was 33?C and at midnight the

t her re t urne d ho me . She w as a lo ng t im e at the doctor's and she arrived home very late. I ran all the way to the bus stop, but I had alrea e lower than Rome's. The noon t e mp er at ure i n C ai ro w as 29? C , o ne deg re e highe r t ha n t hat in A t he ns and Hong Kong. The temperatur

Your friend, Peter

Write one word or more in each blank. t emperature s had a lot of s unshine throughout the day. Although the sun did not shine at all in Athens and Paris, it did not rain. It was a 1. Peter lives at and H ong Kong. 2. He wrote the letter on -) Ye st e rda y 's We a t her A round t he Wo rl d 3. Peter could not leave home because he had to return. 4. His mother had been to the S S u n n y C = Cloudy R = Rain the New York Theatre by 5. Peter went to Noon M d n i g h t 6. He ithought that David 7. The word means excuse. 26

C 26 seve n on June S had-arranged to meet 8. Peter C 25 C 22 R ment. It has been included here as a reminder of the C importance of varying text types in a reading comprehension test and of using th 30 C Paris 25 C Rom 25 S 1 Read the following advertisement and complete each sentence. Write one word or more in eac e C 33 2C S Si ng a p o r e C S t o c k h o l m C ev enings . NEWTON THEATRE 26 MI N G A T TR A C T I O N S 1. The Shanghai Festival Ballet will. TokyoT H C O FOR S C will be the 2. Monday, 8 January fort weeks _ most amusing play. _ MY FAT FRIEND 3. If you like dancing, you should see C harles Laurence's popular comedy Cair o H o ng K o ng

possible weakness of such a test may result from the Ballet to suppl y adequate guidelines to the testees; the follow Shanghai Festival failure
prese nt s SWAN LAKE exciting.

Wednesday, 24 January to Saturday, 27 January

4. The play written by

is very

Monday, 29 January for one week RUN AND KILL something along the (2) When we (1) Tim Danby 's thrilling my stery
cause (3) 126

it will


i i

ng text illustrates how blanks should be interspersed; the testee's degree of success in completing the blanks depends

(1) If something is very (2) , there will be a lot of friction between it and the ground. However, friction is when something rolls instead of (4) The (3) invention of the (5) Unless there is snow or ice, it is much harder to (6) anattempt wasreally something on a box or sledge than in a cart. Ball-bearings are used a lot friction. It is friction which causes (8) to machinery as the various parts (9) against one another. Friction is reduced if we put oil onto the It should not be forgotten, however, that (10) is also useful to us: it is necessary, for instance, for car (11) wheels to grip the (12)

When we slide something along the floor, it will cause

Example 1

In some tests certain letters of missing words are given. In these cases, the testees are generally informed th The mighty Amazon s -f into the Atlantic near the Equator: its es y is about 170 miles wide. The w--th-- is often so misty that s of the river cannot be seen the b --g quite close to them. --ps

letters can often create mental blocks and only confuse students if they fail to think of the exact word required. T

Example 2

A variation of this type of reading comprehension may incorporate the multiple-choice

Astrology is the ancient (1) in the future by studying the (3) of the stars (2) _ . astrologers thought that the stars and and planets. (4) of men, they claimed they could tell (6) (1) custom business magic knowledge art ( 2 ) ()c o i n c i d e h a p p e n c h a n c e c o m e f o r e t e l l ( 3 ) ()p l a c e s s h a p e s t i m e s p o s i t i o n s l i g h t ( 4 ) ()H o w e v e r B e c a u s e A l t h o u g h F o r W h i l e

(5) ()affairs m a tt e rs b us i n e s s e s c ha n c es t i m e s
( 6 ) ()h o r o s c o p e s f u t u r e a d v i c e f o r t u n e s l u c k

equired to perform in their studies or in real life. For example, testees can be provided with the dictionary definiti


ppropriate.) Underneath the dictionary extract are printed incomplete sentences, which testees are required to complete


4 In the following type of item the reading comprehension text is related to information contained in a diagram or

at the following diagram: It shows the places to which trains travel from London. It also shows the times taken to travel to Edinburgh thr 34 S Manchester 2hr 39 1 Leeds 2hr 7 Doncaster 1 hr 39 Norwich 1 hr 58 Rugb 59 mi

_ _ Holyhead 4hr 29

Hut 2hr 37

Chester 2hr 39 Birmi Hereford 1hr 3. 2hr 44

Swansea 2hr 41 Cardiff 1 hr 43 Weymouth 2hr 42

Colchester Dover 1hr 27


Southampton 1 hr 9

(2) (3) (4)

(5) (6)


to reach (8), a pleasant town to tbe southeast of London. To the southwest of London is (9), which is one hour and nine min
(9) (10)

(11) (12) (13) (14)

Completion items are also useful for testing the ability to deduce word meanings from the clues available in the conte

he utmost importance in reading and should be encouraged in both teaching and testing at all levels. The following is

evel. Students are instructed to read the entire text before attempting to complete each blank. The first example co (One blank: one word)
The Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt is without doubt still one of the the world, even though it has been studied very in greatest

thoroughly over the last century or so. It may, however, be possible to find out more about the pyramid by c

(Three blanks: one word) Japan, in the interests of both the Japanese and the world needs to be assured that efforts will be made to stabilise the yen. For i by part, Britain is now taking active steps to improve its

dustries and cutting down on imported goods of all kinds. Talks now being held in Paris between France and Germany are d countries in the hope that this will lead to a general improvement in the and create more jobs. European 8.8 Rearrangement items

mbled sentences. It is also advisable to provide them with one or two answers: if students start off by pUtting the first

of jumbled sentences which the students have to 'unscramble' and arrange in the correct order. The students are ins

A. The dogs were separated from their human masters and were put into large fields. B. For instance, they wagged their tails, they barked and growled, and they faWned on animals which possessed food. C. Psychologists observing them found that they reacted towards each other in much the same way as they used to respond to people. D. Recently an experiment was conducted with a group of dogs to find out how much their behaviour was, in fact, simply a result of human environment. E. Puppies born to those dogs and kept out of contact with people

showed the same behaviour patterns: they were extremely wild and afraid of hum


You would like to learn something about migraine and so read the art ic le 'One-sided Head

d in the light of the information contained in the text. The students must write the letters of the sentences in their c

do the following in her article? To answer this, put the number 1 in the first answer column next to the one that appears first, and so on. If

b . b. .S h e r e c o m m e n d s s p e c i f i c d r u g s . c. c. .S h e r e c o m m e n d s a h e r b a l c u r e . d. She describes migraine destinations, and rapidly establishes w d . mputer. This computer contains all the information about current bookings andattacks. e. She gives general advice to migraine sufferers. e.
a. a.

o make a booking, the clerk behind the counter turns immediately to the small computer unit on the desk. The unit looks

Write in every box

.She gives some of the history of migraine.

8.9 Cloze procedure

made in another part of the world.

completion tests the words for deletion are selected subjectively (consisting largely of structural words in tests of grammar and key co ted word should correspond to the length of the missing word but in most doze tests all the blanks are now of uniform length. Unless

hased (cash or credit card), is then typed onto the screen. Next the computer confirms the booking and requests that pay

photocopying process), it is simple: to insert blanks of uniform length.

t these sentences in the correct order. Write only the letter of each sentence in each box. (Three boxes have been comp

A. Details about the seats available are sent back. B. The computer then wants to be informed about the method of payment. are the most widely favoured for deletion in doze tests. If every third or fourth word is deleted, the student will have extreme diffic C. The tickets are issued. D. .The computer asks for personal details. E. .The customer makes his or her request to the travel agent. F. .The request is sent to the main computer. G. .The customer goes to a travel agent. of the payment. H. The computer requests text will be 480-500 words (i.e. 40 x 12). I. .The travel agent feeds the initial request into a small computer unit. J. .The booking is typed into the computer. K. .The bo oking is confirmed. GFJ

eing evalua ted is given to a g rou p of students a nd the average score of all the students in the group is obtained. If the mean sco

introducing an additional feature: i.e. 'Don't know', 'Information not given', 'Not applicable'. The following item' is b



strational level' and should not be used even with the help of a teacher. Later research, however, has shown that thi from 38 to 50 per cent and on other occasions from 47 to 61 per cent. I

Unlike the other types of items treated here, however, a true doze test (i.e. the mechanical deletion of words in t . . . . _

nt feature in language testing (especially in the United States), the whole subject is treated at much greater length chapter.

uded in this section to demonstrate how cloze procedure can be applied to the testing of reading comprehension a

Example 1 (Elementary)
Once upon a time a farmer had three sons. The farmer was rich and had many fields, but his sons were lazy. When the farmer was dying, he which will make you calledhisthree must dig in all fields to find the ,'hetoldthem. where the treasure is After the old man out , his three lazy sons began to dig. 'I'll into the fields the first to find place where the treasure buried,' cried the 'That's the field where father put the eldest dug all the treasure,' another son. The three fields several years, but they no treasure. grew in the fields the sons had dug. However, vegetables made them very Example 2 (Advanced) It is estimated that in the last two thousand years the world has lost more than a hundred species of animals. A similar number of species of birdshasalso all the losses occurred factthatalmost the past quarters figures, man's hundred years as a direct result activities on this It is essential for whole process of evolution the extinction of certain should occur over a of time. But extinction 7 . occur by nature's design not as a result the activities of man is by no means . to the preservation of life. species of animal and 132

I 1

Conservation means the of a healthy environment ignored, a whole. If conservation then within a short time our water will be found inadequate, seas and rivers will fewer fish, our land produce fewer crops, and air we breathe will poisonous. It becomes only matter of time before health deteriorates and before thing, disappears from the togetherwith of the earth.

8.10 Open-ended and m i s c e l la n e o us i t e m s en-ended' is used to refer to those questions which elicit a completely subjective response on the part of the testees. The response requi

(One-word answer) Give the name of the town where the writer had a bad accident. (Answer in a few words)

You have a friend who is keen on cross-country running. Which event can he enter at the end (Sentence answer) According to the article, why do you think so few foreign cars have been imported into Singa When marking open-ended items which require answers in sentences, it is frequently advisable to award at least two or three marks for each correct answer. If the maximum for a correct answer is three marks, for example, the marking guide might be as follows: containing only a minor errorCorrect answer in a grammatically correct sentence Correct answer in a sentence containing one or two minor errors (but causing no difficulty in understanding) 2 major grammatical errorsCorrect answer but very difficult to understand because of 1 a Incorrect answer in a sentence with or without errors

to write down precisely how marks should be awarded, even if only one person is marking the items. This marking scheme will th guidelines if more than one examiner is _marking the items.

g comprehension test, the test writer should remember to let the text itself determine the types of items set. Indeed, if this principl m types. It is now

fitem to be used to test comprehension of the same text. Thus, a reading comprehension passage may be followed by one or tw

8.11 Cursory reading

ved in reading quickly, skimming and scanning. The term skimming is used to denote the method of glancing through a text in order


vary according to the purpose for which it is being read. It is sufficient to note here that poor readers (native speake

I I are required to answer questionson a text. 1 I

al outline of the text. Sometimes at the end of the skimming the students are allowed a few minutes to jot down any n

back too often to the text.

n. In such cases, it is helpful to set simple open-ended questions (e.g. 'What is the writer's view of modern transportati

options for each item while they are reading.

when students have been adequately prepared for the tasks involved in such tests. It is grossly unfair to test those rea

Notes and references 1 Based in part on Munby, J 1978 Communicative Syllabus Design. Cambridge University Press
2 University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations: Examination in English Studied as a Foreign Language, Preliminary Level, 1981 3 Joint Matriculation Board: Test in English (Overseas), March 1982 4 Joint Matriculation Board: Test in English (Overseas), March 1983 S The text is slightly adapted from an article by Anthony Tucker in The Guardian,

September 5th 1969.

6 This comprehension test was first constructed by the author for the Hong Kong
English School Certificate Examination (Education Department, Hong Kong) in 1968, but was later expanded to teseawareness of reference devices. 7 Royal Society of Arts: The Communicative Use of English as a Foreign Language, Test of Reading, Advanced Level, June 1984 8 See Cohen, A D 1980 Testing Language Ability in the Classroom. Newbury House


T e s tin g th e - ru in g s k ills
9.1 The writing skills y not only of grammatical and rhetorical devices but also of conceptual and judgemental elements. The following an

language use: the ability to write correct and appropriate sentences; mechanical skills: the ability to use correctly those conventions peculia to the written language e.g. punctuation, spelling; treatment of content: the ability to think creatively and develop thoughts, excluding all irrelevant information; stylistic skills: the ability to manipulate sentences and paragraphs, and use language effectively; judgement skills: the ability to write in an appropriate manner for a particular purpose with a particular audience in mind, together with an relevant information. ability to select, organise and order

The actual writing conventions which it is necessary for the student to master relate chiefly (at the elemen However, in punctuation there are many areas in which personal

tests of punctuation must guard against being too rigid by recognising that several answers may be correct. Unfortuna creativity.

uently results in incongruities and embarrassment. Whereas native speakers learn to make distinctions of register


ect and the format, the actual audience (e.g. an examiner, a teacher, a student, a friend) will also determine whic

particular audience.

d, judgement is again required to determine the selection of the material which is most relevant to the task at hand (b

9.2 Te s ti ng composition w riting

y of writing. If the medium of instruction is not English, the written work will often take the form of consolidation or

and papers.

mining body' explicitly states the kinds of writing tasks its examinations test and the standards of writing expected in t l

successful candidate will have passed an examination designed to test ability to produce a selection of the following types

sic Level: Letter; Postcard; Diary entry; Forms ermediate Level: As Basic Level, plus Guide; Set

of instructions Advanced Level: As Intermediate Level, plus Newspaper repor

The candidate's performance will have met the following minimum critena: No confusing errors of grammar or vocabulary; a piece of writing legible and readily intelligible; able to produce unsophisticated sentences.

3asic Level:

blywith some mistakes which do not destroy communication; handwriting generally legible; expression clear and approp

asily legible handwriting; no obvious limitations on range of language candidate is able to use accurately and appropriately; (

important for the test writer to find out how composition is tested in the first language. Although the emphasis in the t


he development of the skills in the first language, a comparison of the abilities acquired and methods used is very help not possess in their own language.

tic in their expectations of testees' performances in composition writing: hence the constant complaint that relative

effect of examinations involving composition writing has been unfortunate: teachers have too often anticipated exa

free composition work far too early in the course. They have 'progressed' from controlled composition to free co writing skills have been acquired.

However, once the students are ready to write free compositions on carefully chosen realistic` topics, then c

testing tool. It provides the students with an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to organise language mat ideas, and to communicate. In this way, composition tests provide of motivation which many objective-type tests fail to provide.

a degree

ates them to write. The writing task should be such that it ensures they have something to say and a purpose for saying uld be given in composition tests. For example, a brief description of a real-life situation might he given when

requiring the students to write a letter:

g enough for her to stay with you but there is not enough room for her brothers. There are two hotels near your house

h give the students no guidance as to what is expected of them should be avoided. Examples of poor titles which fail to d before you leap, A good film which I have recently seen.

the part of another person are often avoided as it is felt they are less realistic and communicative. However, this is

(a) Write a letter, telling a friend about any interesting school excursion
on which you have been. (b) You have just been on a school excursion to a nearby seaside town.


1 w as all v ery b o r i n g a p a r t f r o m o n e r o o m i n t h e m u s e u m c o n t a i n i n g o l d - f a s h i o n e d a rm our and sc e nes o f ba tt l es . You f ound t hi s roo m

ural letters from the students simply because the specific details make the task more meaningful and purposeful. The detailed des 1 for its successful completion.

1 a b le no t to a llo w s tu de nt s a c h o ic e o f c o m p o si tio n it em s to be answered. Examination scripts written on the same topic give the

will cater for the interests of each student.

artificiality and unreality. Moreover, the fact that candidates are expected to produce a finished piece of writing at their very first at

9.3 Setting the composition

ec ifi c s itu a ti on a nd c o n te xt in wh ic h t o wr i te. S in c e i t i s ea s ier t o compare different performances when the writing task is determ

learning preparatory to the examination.

The difficulty in constructing such compositions arises in the_writin2 e rubrics. On the one hand, if the description of the situation on which the composition is to be based is too long, then the text beco 138

must be conveyed by the rubric in order to provide a realistic, helpful basis for the composition. It is important, therefore

You have been directed by your superior to compose a letter to a potential client to ascertain whether h ... undertaking that would conceivably be of mutual benefit

The following are provided as examples of situational compositions intended to be used i Type 1

ays. First, fill_ in your activities for those days which have been left blank. Then, using the information in the diary, write a

i Monday 2 Tuesday i 3 Wednesday 4 Thursday

/ S


Saturday 7 Sunday

0/li I I10edZ w o S a e z ' '





Type 2

(Question 1) While you are away from home, some American friends are coming to

them some notes to help them with all the things they will need to know while staying in the house. Your friends have ne

(Question 2) While your American friends are staying in your house, they write to

e enjoying themselves so much that they would like to spend two weeks visiting-some other parts of the country. They wou 139

o w n k n o w l e d g e a n d e x p e r i e n c e , w i t h w h a t e v e r s p e c i a l h i n t s a n d warnings may be necessary. Make sure your friends know who the the best possible holiday. Write your letter in the space below. It should be between 150 and 200 words in length. (A blank space follows.)

Type 3 Read the following letter carefully. 176 Wood Lane London NW 215th May l i

e v e r y n i g h t t h i s w e e k . W h i l e I r e a l i s e t h a t y o u m u s t p r a c t i s e y o u r trumpet some time, I feel you ought to do it at a more suitable tim play well, the noise would still be unbearable at that time. I hope that in future you will b Yours sincerely, W . R o b i ns o n

a little more considerate of the feelings of others.

Now write a reply to this letter. You do not play the trumpet but on two o r t hr ee o cc a si ons re c ent l y y ou hav e pla y ed so me t r umpe t m us your record player. you did not play the ecord very loudly certainly Robinson's t elevision. You want t o t ell him this but not as loudly as Mr you do not want to become enemies so you must be reasonably polite in your letter.

e c ons t ruc t ion of l et t e r- w rit ing t as k s t o l im it t he a m o u nt o f in f o r m a t io n t o w h i c h t he s t ud e nt m us t r e p l y . I f t hi s i s no t d o ne s c o ri n g

v i ding a ba si s f or co mpo si t ion w o r k . I n s u c h a w r i t i n g t a s k . s t u d e n t s m u s t d e m o n s t r a t e t h e i r a b i l i t y t o c h a ng e a t e x t f r o m o ne r e g i s

Read the following conversation carefully. MR What was the weather like while you were camping? Not too bad. It rained the last couple of days, but mostly it was fine. We weren't able to visit the Gorge Waterfalls on the next to the last day, but ... MR BLACK : What a pityl LINDA: Well, apart from that we did everything we wanted to
B L AC K : L I N D A:

walking, clirr bing and just sitting in the sun. We even managed a visit to Hock Cave. M R B L A C K : How on earth did you get that far? L I N D A : We cy cled. Oh ... and we we nt t o t he beach quite a few times. M R BLACK: Did you t ke your bikes with you? 140

Type 7 The stimulus for writing may even take the form of notes.
No, we borrow ed some f rom a place in t he village. Use the following notes to write an account of an M R B L A C K : Whereabout s peere you? uld wr it e ab out 25 0 w o rds . accident for a ne w spa w r. You sho L I N D A : Oh, in a lovely valley - lots of woods and about twenty miles Cyclist about to turn right. from the sea. Just north of Hilson. Not put hand out. L or r y M ReB Lin d : s l remember. one time when I went camping. We forgot to take a tin-opener! b h ACK I o w s d o w n Sports car behind lorry overtakes. L I N D A: That's nothing. A goat came into our tent in the middle of the Swerves to avoid boy. night - it ate all the food we had with us! Knocks over old man on pavement.

We ll, you seem to have had a good time.

t for writing is the use of pictures. A picture or series of pictures not only provides the students with the basic mater

Now w rit e an acc ount of Linda's holiday, us ing t he conversat ion abov e as a guid e. Im a gine ot he r t hings w hic h ha ppene d

T ction where accidents often happen. read a the students local newspaper, describing the junction and short written te I composition since they can generally be Write byletter to your without much difficulty. Moreover, as only a mentioning som
L ink R oa d; A n A c ci dent 'B lac k S pot '

m at e ly 25 0 w o rds abo ut t he inf o rm at io n in t he f oll ow ing t abl e. Write down the conclusions you draw from the figures about the various


Travelling abroad Going to seaside Camping

11 1Itkm

1968 4 38 8 m 16 23 100

1988 17 31 31 10 1

Visiting friends/relatives in another town Going to another town (but .0not to visit 9





40 ed in the form of a simple graph or histogram 35

B ut c he r may also provide Grocer 1

a suitable stimulus for writing. Such writing tasks of this

30 Use the chart together with the information below to-give-a.brief survey.of the causes of a c ci dent s o n Li nk 25 20

osition is purely verbal, the testees often tend to reproduce the phrases and sentences contained in it. Pictures and d

15 es and diagrams serving as stimuli for descriptions of objects. people, places and processes may all be used to advantag 1 980- 81 No c hange s 10 well as those involving the writing of directions, instructions, 2 - 8 3 1981-82 Sign: Beware animals 1 98 N o p a rk i ng s i gn s

1977-78 Road not in gre at use 1978-79 Nearby road closed: road now in great use 1 9 7 9- 8 0 B u s s t o p m o v e d

5 s and narratives. The following example' shows how the illustration of1983-84 Sign: No right turn two aircraft can be used as a basis for a fairly d

1984-85 Double white line: No overtaking (etc.)

77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87



jet engines

-n h

Type 10 The following examples tests students' ability to describe shapes and linear forms, as it is assumed that none of them will have any

picture. It is a searching test of their descriptive writing ability and is, of course, suitable only for fairly advanced stu

The pictures below are arranged from the oldest (1) to the most recent (3). Use them to comment on developmen


L 16-17 12-15

Very good Good

resourceful and controlled in language and expression. Good realisation of task, ambitious and natural in style. Sufficient assurance and freedom from basic error to maintain theme.


Pass Clear realisation of task, reasonably correct and natural. Near to pass level in general scope, but with either numerous errors or too elementary or translated in style. Weak
.14 Grading the

composition Very lly0-4 grounds of unreliability. Considerable research in the past has shown how extremely unreliable markers are on Basic errors, narrowness of vocabulary. k. Although poor there may sometimes be a case for a limited choice of composition topics in the classroom, attempts at

relative merits of a student's composition. Markers may award their marks on (i) what a student has written:

examination. Because of the inherent unreliability in composition marking, it is essential to compile a banding system or, at least, a brief description of the various grades of achievement expected to be attained by the class. Th T r range of marks than marker B (i.e. rangingfollowing are two examples mark); marker C may have performance used from a low mark to a high of descriptions of levels of much higher expe by a well-known examining body in Britain: table (a) for intermediate-leve . .. learners and table (b) for more advanced-level learners.

duction, banding systems devised for a particular group of students at a particular level are far preferable to scales draw possible marks was 20.)

Rick Amanda Debbie Tina Dave

Spread AB

Table (a)

Standard AC

Order A D

18-20 Excellent 14 14 9 1Natural English, minimal errors, 9 14 complete realisation of the task
1 16-17 Very good Good vocabulary and structure, above the simple 5 8 10 1 10 10 sentence level. Errors non-basic.

O i
0 7

0 9

6 2


12 1

12-15 Good Simple but accurate realisation of task. Sufficient naturalness, not many 1 6 5 5 5 6

8 - 1 1 correct if awkward OR not stop here. The whole question of unreliability. however, does Natural treatment of subject with some Reasonably P a s s Even if a student were to take two composition examinations of Vocabulary and .grammar inadequate for the task set. comparable difficulty, there would be no guarantee whatsoever that he or Weak 5-7 0-4

Incoherent. Errors showing lack of basic knowledge of English

sition paper than to any other and is termed test/re-test reliability. A further complication results from a lack of mar
Table (b)

be a difference in the marks awarded.

ite of all such demonstrations of unreliability, composition is still widely used as a means of measuring the writing skill

s them_in his or her own words is a skill essential for real-life communication. Thus, composition can be used to provid 18-20

t too early a stage the complex skills required for such a task. Moreover, if a more reliable means of scoring the compo

sampling a student's writing skills in this way will appear a far more valid test than any number of objective tests of g

sing with the subjective element and attempting to score on an 'objective' basis, according to a carefully constructe

The following rating scale is the result of considerable and careful research conducted in the scoring of compositions in the United States.? Only a

y of the scale is shown here and it must be remembered that in its original form slightly fuller notes are given after eac
Content 30-27 EXCELLENT TO VERY GOOD: knowledgeable - substantive - etc. 26-22 GOOD TO AVERAGE: some knowledge of subject - adequate range - etc. 2 1- 1 7 F A I R T O P O O R : l i m i t e d k n o w l e d ge o f s u b je c t - l i t t l e s u bs t a nc e etc. 16-13 VERY POOR: does not show knowledge of subject - nonsubstantive - dtc. O rga niz at i on 20-18 EXCELLENT TO VERY GOOD: fluent expression - ideas clearly stated - etc. 17-14 GOOD TO AVERAGE: somewhat choppy - loosely organized but main ideas stand out - etc. 1 3-1 0 F A IR T O P O OR : non- f lue nt - ide as c o nfus e d o r di sc onne c t ed - et c . 9-7 VERY POOR: does not communicate - no organization - etc. Vocabulary 20-18 EXCELLENT TO VERY GOOD: sophisticated range - effective word/idiom choice and usage - etc. 17-14 GOOD TO AVERAGE: adequate range- occasional errors of word/idiom form, choice, usage but meaning not obscured. 1 3-1 0 F A IR T O P O OR : lim it e d r ange - f re que nt e rro rs o f w ord/ i diom form, choice, usage - etc. 9-7 VERY POOR: essentially translation - little knowledge of English vocabulary . La nguage us e 25-22 EXCELLENT TO VERY GOOD: effective comlex constructions etc. 2 1 - 1 9 G O O D T O A V E R A G E : e f f e c t i v e bu t s i m p le c o ns t ru c t io n s - e t c . 1 7 - 1 1 F A I R T O P O O R : m a j o r p r o bl e m s i n s i m p l e / c o m p l e x c on s t r u c t i o n s - etc. 10-5 VE RY P OOR: virtually no maste ry of sentence construc tion rule s etc. Mechanics E X CE L LE NT TO V E R Y G OO D: de mo nst r at e s ma st e ry of conventions - etc. 4 3 GO OD TO A V E RA G E : oc c as iona l er ror s of s pe lli ng, punc t ua t ion etc. FAIR TO POOR: f requent errors of s pelling punc tuat ion, capitalization - etc.

2 VERY POOR: no mastery of conventions - dominated by errors of spe lling, punc tuation, capitalization, paragraphing - et c.

t worth noting

in the scale is that in each classification (e.g. Content, Organization, Vocabulary, etc.) the lowest grade de


'Very Poor' ends with the phrase 'OR not enough to evaluate.' (This is n included here.) Compositions may be scored according to one of two methods: the impression method or the analytic method. Note, however, that the former method does not involve the use of a rating scale to any large extent. The impression method of marking entails one or more markers awarding generally found multiple marking). based on the total than marking for short periods. Impression marking is a single mark (= to be much faster than analytic or mechanica impression of the composition as a whole. As it is possible for a

cript. As has been demonstrated, the examiner's mark ismarker are less reliable than those a fallible judgement, affe marks awarded by one impression a highly subjective one based on e shows how four markers can score threeanalytic marker. awarded by ,one compositions using a five-point scale for impression marking. Since most teachers have little opportunity to enlist the services 'of two

Comp. 1 Comp. 2 Comp. 3 r scoring purposes. Such a procedure is ideally suited to the classroom situation: because certain features have been grad Marker A:
Marker B: Marker C: Marker D: Total: Grammar Vocabulary 1 4 17 3 1




10(?) 2.5(?)

s allocated (e.g. Composition 3 in the previous example), the TOTAL =once again by all four markers and eac X script is examined 14 Mechanics I
Fluenc X stages in multiple marking. y X Relevance

hanics refers to punctuation and spelling; Fluency to style and ease of communication; and Relevance to the content task demanded of the student. A 5-point scale has been used.

become necessary to change either the divisions themselves or the weighting given to them. At the elementary level, _ 4 g among candidates. It is also important that all the markers read through a certain number of scripts in a given ti the intermediate level, the tester may be particularly interested in 1

re while awarding only 5 marks for each of the others. At the more advanced level, the tester may wish to include sep division. scoring, it is the least valid and is not recommended. The procedure consists of counting the errors made by each testee and deducting the number from a given total: for example, a testee may lose up to 10 marks

ethod of scoring compositions is the mechanical accuracy or error-count method. Although this is the most objective


nse be regarded as more important than certain misspellings or the wrong use of words? Furthermore, as a result o

gative aspects of the writing task, placing the students in such a position that they cannot write for fear of making mistak

9.5 Treatment of written errors

gravity, it i, interesting to note a report of an experiment' in which native speakers whc were not teachers scored written errors it contained. Non-native speaking teachers of the language, however, penalised students for what they consi

were generally far stricter in their attitude to errors. Although resulting in a far more positive approach, evaluating writt

a reliable method of assessment. Frequently, the student's performance and success in accomplishing the task means of communication.

t and verb, incorrect position of adverbs, etc.: 'I arrived Leeds.'). Global errors are usually those errors which involve

useful distinction, which provides criteria for determining the keen further developed recently cOthinunicative-importance of errors;h asso that it can be more readily applied to the marking of free writing.1.".

necessary in classroom tests to distinguish between those errors which, though perhaps not resulting in any breakdown in

which has just been taught or which should have been mastered previou

what he or she wants to write. For this reason, pictures and diagrams can play a very useful part in testing writing, sin


L2 learners (i.e. less fluent learners) used avoidance strategies or reduction strategies, avoiding an actual topic. L1 learners

more fluent L2 learners) tended to use paraphrase strategies or achievement strategies. Fluent performance seems to be characterised by the use of fewer communication strategies of both kinds. marking free writing will vary according to the students' level of attainment. At the elementary levels, for example, the

What is important at all levels is an awareness of different types of error and of communication strategies. resulting in an


9.6 Objective tests: , following type of punctuation item is very popular and is generally used to cover.a wide range of punctuation marks. It

iderable time since punctuation is to a large degree subjective and one particular use of a punctuation mark may well


Very poor

In the following passage there is no punctuation. Write out the passage, putting in all the punctuation and capital lette
lend me your pen please peter asked i took my pen out of my pocket be careful i said ill give it back to you in a moment he promised dont worry i said you can keep it as long as you want

he task which the testees are expected to perform. One method of doing this is h) substituting lines or circles for those pun

Type 2 Put the correct punctuation mark in each box. What do you want, I asked Henryf May I use your telephone?he asked. I Certainly said. When you ve finished please let me know I shall only be a moment Henry answered. Has John Lee invited you to his party I asked. Henry replied. No, he hasn t yet I He s invited Paul D a v i d Tony and Mary continued. Hes probably forgotten about me Henry laughed. . I'm I How strange answered. sure he wants you to go to his party. Type 3 A greater degree of objectivity can be obtained by using the

multiple-choice technique. e.g.


Put a circle round the letter (A, B, C, or D) of the correctly punctuated sentence. A. Tom asked me if I was going to the meeting? B. C. D.

. .Tom asked me, if I was going to the meeting. .Tom asked me, 'If I was going to the meeting?' .Tom as ked me if I was going t o t he mee ting.


ling tests. Words used in connection with the students' free composition work or everyday writing form the most suitable basis for te

more passive items of the students' vocabulary.

dictation measures a complex range of integrated skills and should not be regarded as constituting simply a test of spelling. The di

(i) (ii) ( i i i)

()E a c h w o r d i s d i c t a t e d o n c e b y th e t e s t e r ; ()the word is then repeated in a context; and finally, ()t h e w o r d i s r e p e a t e d o n i t s o w n .


method of testing spelling is through the use of multiple-choice items usually containing five options, four of which are spelt correc

1. A. thief

B. belief



D. ceiling C . o cc ur ing

E. decieve

2. A. happening B . o f f e r i ng D. beginningE . b e n e f i t i n g 3. A. illegal B. generally E. neccessary B. support 4 . A . int e rrupt E. command

C. summary C . ans w er ing

D. beggar D . o c a s i o na l

In some tests only four words are given as options, the fifth option being No mistakes or A A. exhibition B. punctually C . pl e a s u r e D. obayed E. All


o know exactly which word is required. The blanks occur only in those parts of the word which give rise to a spelling d


I )

Write one or more letters in each of the spaces in the following words. (The definitions will help you to recognise the correct word. 1. 2. 3. 4. om s n di uade o u ing rec t something left out persuade someone not to do something happening, taking place a written statement to show that a bill bas been paid

It is helpful in tests of this nature to provide a context for the word (in addition to giving a synonym or definition). 1.

2. 3. The school has an enro ment (= number on its register) of over 500 students..

.The horse galed (= ran) to the front of the race. .I d o ub t i f a n y o ne e v e r pr o f ed (= gained) from that business deal.

4. Don't worry; my dog will go into the water and retr ve (= bring back) your ball.

/ Type 4: Error-recognition items In these items the students are required to identify (according to its letter) the part of the sentence in which a word has been missp

B C A 1. The dissatisfied woman/refused to admit/that there was sufficent/ D coffee for everyone.
A D the old corrupt system. A rs B C 2. Don't be decieved/by the new procedure:/it hardly differs from/


3. The man was equippe d/w ith a double-barrel shot gun/ and his C D coleague/with an innocent-looking walking-stick. A B C 4. Mr Grant's exaggerated/account of the importance/of his new apointD ment/ was quite unnecessary. 9.7 Objective tests: style and register

Style I ative speaker in the particular context in which they appear. Indeed, some test writers distinguish tests of writing from tests of g

Some of the reviews were favourable to the new play A.


.a n d a s m a n y w e r e u n f a v o u r a b l e . .although others of the same amount

were unfavourable. * C . w h il e a n e qu a l nu m be r w e re u nf a v o u ra b l e .


D. E.

.but the same number were unfavourable. .i n s p i t e o f h a l f b e i n g u n f a v o u r a b l e .

The weather has always been an important factor in people's lives

*A. because of its effects on all aspects of farming. B. for it has considerable influence over farming. C. since farmers concern themselves with it. D. as weather constitutes the dominant worry for farmers. (* Register E. account of its affecting farming affairs. Correct answer)

. .o n

dience in mind. Confusion and embarrassment result from the use of inappropriate registers. Such tests as the following, however, are

d) register test requires the students to identify those words which are incongruous, replacing each with a much more suitable word

ontained in tobacco smoke is poisonous. One minute drop of pure-nicotine plunged into the bloodstream of a rat is sufficient to kill it. It

evidence that the nicotine content in fags is a primary cause of loss of weight and hungriness. It is also likely that a few heavy smokers will lose control of their finer muscles and be unable MI My around with o b j e c t s w i t h e a s e a n d p r e c i s i o n . S u c h a l o s s o f m u s c l e a c t i v i t y m a y widen the eyes and spoil vision. Moreove adolescents and lowers athletic ability. Howe ver, the most serious disease connect ed w ith sm ok ing is c ancer of t he lung: the direct connect ion betw een smok ing and c ance r has recently been established so assuredly that cancer research folk and public health authorities throughout the world have begun intensive campaigns against smoking. In certain countries not only are cigarette

advertisements banished from cinema and television screens but also makers are forced to print on each packet a warning -

Type 2 Matching tests are well-suited to tests of register; such tests can be constructed both at word and (a) Word level: The students are instructed to match each word in List A

with a word in List B, depending entirely on how formal or informal a word is - not on its me
List A 1. cry 2. commence 3. kid 4. pussy 5. entrain List B boss gee ge e e x pi r e hospit alise draw Answers

a. b. c. d. e.

(2c) (3a) (4b) (5d)


ence in List B with the number of each sentence in List A. The sentences have been taken from instructions,

List A
1. Build the assembly formers flat on the plan and bend the undercarriage down to the pattern shown. 2. The Tenant shall keep the interior of the premises in good order and condition. 3. A bicyc le pump is a dev ice for moving air against a pressure difference. 4. Because the Barcelno has front wheel drive, there's no prop shaft. So you get big car roominess in only thirteen feet. 5. But it's too late! The evil plan, cooked up by the monster Balbo, has led C ato to Madam Z ena. 6. Ace driver injured in thrilling race of ye r.

List B
a. There's a new landmark for lovers and others at Waterloo Station. The Drum B ar and B uff et. b. c. d. e.

.A n objec t normally becomes hot when it is placed in the s un. .T h e m i x t u r e s h o u l d b e t a k e n t h r e e t i m e s d a i l y a f t e r m e a l s . .Gang fight death - youth killed when pushed onto electric line. Any amendment of this certificate or failure to complete any part


it may render it invalid. f. Give over. I'm not a genius. The radio transmits a kind of buzz. beam that can be picked up for a couple of miles.

9.8 Controlled writ ing

or testing purposes if each student is completely familiar with the particular task to be performed: hence the impo

dents are given a short reading extract and then required to write a similar paragraph, using the notes they have

. Some dogs are used for hunting and others help to rescue people. Even no w p o l i c e o f f ic e r s us e d o gs w h e n t he y a r e lo o k i ng f o r t hi e v

bones best of all.

Although - horses - animals, - useful - a lot. For example, - horses - people - c attle. Some horses - hunt ing - pull t hings. In t he past soldiers - horses - f ighting against the enemy. People - horses - horse rcg oeloe aot ai s kA r s ya n-pr.hs h - s i- t l 154 1

conventions observed in the item. Even the following rubric and item may cause difficulty if a student has not previou

attention to the verbs underlined and insert all missing words. The oblique lines (/) are used to divide the notes into se

Example: Parachute jump from aeroplanes and balloons/be very popular sport/many parts of world Parachute jumping from aeroplanes and balloons is a very popular sport in many pa Greatest height/from which parachute jump ever make/be over 31,000 metres./1960/doctor in United States balloon/and fall nearly 26,000 metres/before open parachute./Fall last 4 minutes and 38 seconds,/and body reach/speed 980 k hour./He ilometres field/13 minutes and 45 seconds/after he jump./On step of basket of balloon/be wor'srrhis be highest step in world. hen

Type 3 Several types of writing tasks can be based on the following reading extract:5 Any similar tex

copying with minor alterations: e.g. tense/person changes . changing the point of view: e.g. Write this story as seen..by - - -changing the style and register: e.g. Write this story in the form of a
newspaper report/a humorous account, etc. - adding further information.

A young man who refused to give his name dived into the river yesterday morning to save a twelve-year-old boy. bridge. He shouted out for help.

The boy, who ran away after being rescued, had been swimming in the river and had caught his foot be

smounted and dived fully clothed into the river. He then freed the boy's foot-and helped him to the river bank where a small gate before disappearing over the top of the hill.

n, who was about twenty years of age, said 'I don't blame the boy for not giving his name. Why should he? If he wants to sw mine. You can't have my name either!' He then ran back to the bridge, mounted his bicycle and rode away. Test (i) Rewrite this story but imagine that you are actually watching everything that is happening. Begin: There is a small boy swimming



Test (ii) Rewrite this story as told by (a) the young man who saved the boy and (b) the boy who was sav ed. Test (iii) Write this story as if you were giving evidence at a police station. Test (iv) It was a sunny day but at the time of the rescue it began to rain

were passing nearby on their way to a f o o t b a ll m a t c h. W h e n t he y o u ng m a n w e nt a w a y , e v e ry o ne thought that he had got wet in the ra

I l v i n g s u b o r d i n a t i o n a n d c o - o r d i n a t i o n features. Some tasks involve writing up notes in the form of sentences (largely determi

one sentence. Then write each of the finished sentences so as to form a paragraph. Use the joining words given, but note that sometimes

E a ch Ol y mpi c Ga me s ope ns . An athlete appears. He holds a torch. It has been carried from Mount Olympus in Greece. The ceremony was started in Berlin in 1936. It links the sites of the modern Games with the first O l y m p i c G a m e s . However, the actual torch ceremony dates back to Ancient Greece.

before (-ing) which which


where which One of the most spectaciiiar events was the torch race. It was always run at night. The athlete e tee t he st adium. He is holding the torch. He runs to the huge bowl. The sacred flame will burn there. When who in which

i ;

nces in whichever way they consider appropriate. Indeed, since such tests are still very subjective and require a lot of time to score,

ntary and intermediate levels, sentences and clauses are provided at first in order to help the students to start writing. They are then

Read these sentences. Finish each one and then complete the story in y o u r o w n w o r d s .

go One day Hannah and Becky got up

where 156

'Look, that's Pete Shaw over there,' They shouted to Pete but if


'Whydoesn'thelookat us?'Hannah asked.He's

ous one, but here the testees are required to write appropriate sentences father than clauses. The following examp 1 . St u d e nt s
who do not know a lot of English can take several steps to prepare for their study in a British university. For example,

2. Recent research shows that public opinion is divided on the subject of spending mone y on defence. About 40 believes we should increase such spending. On the other hand,

e s e l i c i t i n g a n abi lit y to us e ex e m plif i ca t io n, c ont r as t , a ddit i on, ca use , re sul t , pur pos e, c o n c l u s i o n a n d s u m m a r y . C o n s e q u e n t l y , s t u

e required and yet, at the same time, giving the testees c ons ide ra ble f r ee dom o f e x pre ss io n is t he t w o- se nt e nce t e x t de s igne d t o m e a s

Moreover, it was impossible to open the windows. Sample respons es could be: It was very hot in the small room. There was only one fan in the room, but it was broken. The door slammed behind John, and he realised he was locked in the

In all cas es, t he st udents are required t o demonstrate an awarene ss of t he co mm unic a t iv e nat ur e of l angua ge in part ic ular while st ill retaining a large degree of f re edom of response . Other sample items are:

There was one outside the school entrance, too. 2. To do this, the water must first be boiled. 3. These should then be carefully sorted. 4.

For. wildlife, however, there are even greater dangers in the pollution of rivers, lakes and 5. However, there is no reason to be pessimistic. 157

were given instead of the second sentence. The constraints would then be minimal, the cohesive devices lacking in relevance to a certai

There was a strange looking creature outside our door. Any of the following responses would be acceptable:

I went up to it and stroked it tenderly. Do you like it?

Mrs Lee screamed. The next thing I knew I was lying on my back, There were also several cats and dogs. The telephorze-suddea4y,--:)ng1 _ _ It was a hot day.


Notes and references

I Royal Society of Arts: The Communicative Use of English as a Foreign


2 University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate: Preliminary English Test (revised version) 3 Royal Society of Arts: The Communicative Use of English as a Second Language, Test of Writing: Advanced Level, summer 1984 4 Heaton J B 1986 Writing through pictures. Longman 5 Joint Matriculation Board: Test in English (Overs-as), March 1983 6 University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate Cambridge
Examinations in English (Table (a) = First Certificate in English; Table (b) Certificate of Proficiency in English)

7 Hartfiel. Faye et. al. 1985 ESL Composition Profile. Learning ESL Composition. Newbury House 8 Hughes, A and Lascaratou, C 1982 Competing criteria for error gravity. ELT Journal 36(3) 9 Burt, M K and Kiparsky C 1972 The Gooficon: a repair manual for English. Newbury House Hendrickson, J (ed.) 1979 Error Analysis and Error Correction in Language Teaching. RELC Occasional Papers No. 10 10 Tomiyana. M 1980 Grammatical errors and communication breakdown. TESOL Quarterly 14(1) 11 Ellis. R 1984 Communication strategies and the evaluation of communicative performance. ELT Journal 38(1).

play around with (manipulate), widen (extend), spoil (impair), puts back (retards), lowers (reduces), assuredly (conclusively), folk (or

13 In an excellent article 'Style and Register Tests', in Objektive Tests im register i.e. including words with the same meaning (or phrases with identical structures) but in a different register. 14 This type of item has been used in the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate: First Certificate in English. 15 Samonte, A L 1976 Techniques in Teaching Writing. RELC Journal 1(1) Sharwood-Smith, 1976 New Directions in Teaching Written English. Forum XIV(2)

1 unterricht der Schule and Universitat, Athendum Verlag, Robert Pynsent draws attention to the use of semantic and structural distractors


Criteria and types of tests

10.1 Validity

alid as the constructor can make it. The test must aim to provide a true measure of the particular skill which it is int

knowledge of photography and will consequently favour certain students.

a variety of useful non-verbal strategies be ignored in assessing oral performance in a language? The answer to this que

approach to testing.
Face validity

ers, moderators, and testees, it can be described as having at least face validity. It is, therefore, often useful to show a


e validity. A vocabulary or reading comprehension test containing such words as 'typhoon', 'sampan', 'abacus', an

ment applies to many standardised tests designed for immigrants in the United States and used later in many other world. Although no substitute for empirical validity in public examinations

ed if a test has good face validity, for most students will try harder if the test looks sound. If, on the.,:)ther hand,.th

the test: hence the reliability of the test will be affected.

I ng (e.g. frequent use of the passive voice, nominal strings, etc.) as well as most of the language functions and notion I concerns, say, public institutions in Britain. The concept of face validity is far from new in language testing but the empf asis now placed on it is relatively new. In the past, face validity was

any argue that a test must look valid even as far as the reproduction of the material itself is concerned: thus, a test

Content validity

contain a representative sample of the course. the relationship between the test items and the course objectives alway

scrimination rather than the more important features of stress and intonation: one cannot help but suspect the reaso and intonation. When embarking on the construction of a test. the test writer should

articular language skills and areas to be included in the test. If the test or sub-test being constructed is a test of gram

ading between the lines and inferring 12 per cent, intensive reading comprehension 40 per cent, etc.). It scarcely ma

Construct validity

uct validity) unless it is believed that the speed reading of short passages relates closely to the ability to read a book q

Empirical validity dity is usually referred to as statistical or empirical validity. This validity is obtained as a result of comparing the results

an existing test, known or believed to be valid and given at the same - time; or the teacher's ratings or any other such form of independent assessment - given at the same time; or the subsequent performance of the testees on a certain task measured by - some valid test; or - the teacher's ratings or any other such form of independent assessment given la

edictive validity of a test which is used to predict future success. We could estimate the predictive validity of a language

language test given at the beginning of their course.


The test situation or the technique used is always an important factor in determining the overall validity

1 a poor test situation will certainly detract from it. Is a listening comprehension test valid if the students hear only a disem recorder?

how far can we trust the criteria we use for establishing validity? This is one of the major criticisms of the whole con

10.2 Reliability

not reliable. Reliability measured in this way is commonly referred to as test/re-test reliability to distinguish it from m

a test must be consistent in its measurements.

iability is of primary importance in the useof both public achievement and proficiency tests and classroom tests. Metho

ous factors affecting reliability is important for the teacher at the very outset, since many teachers tend to regard with which to measure language skills. Factors affecting the reliability of a test are: the extent of the sample of material selected for testing: whereas validity )

h the size. The larger the sample (i.e. the more tasks the testees have to perform), the greater the probability that t a wide field to be covered. the administration of the test: is the same test administered to different


ons or at different times? Clearly, this is an important factor in deciding reliability, especially in tests of oral productio The way in which this factor differs from test situation validity can be seen from the following example: if a recording for a listening

iberately masked with noise, as a testing device). But if the quality of the recording is good and if certain groups hear


f i

- various tasks expected from the testees made clear to all candidate test instructions: are the -

ective tests overcome this problem of marker reliability, but subjective tests are sometimes faoed with it: hence the

ub-tests through which performance is assessed. is to indicate the extent of the learner's mastery of the various langu

levels in each area with the required levels.

to justify) can be made, comparison of the two results would then show how reliable the test has proved. Clearly, this m

differences in the performances of certain students.

tests must be identical in the nature of their sampling, difficulty, length, rubrics, etc. Only after a full statistical analys


The split-half method is yet another means of measuring test reliability. This method estimates a diffe 163

onding scores obtained, the extent to which they correlate with each other governing the reliability of the test as a w

be slightly more difficult than item 1, item 4 again more difficult than item 3, and so on. A more accurate procedure is i t e m 1 4 5 8 9 1 2 against item 2 3 6 7 10 11 However, it would be better, though less convenient, to allow chance to decide which items go into one half and which into the other. The reliability of the whole test can be estimated by using the formula: N m (N m) 1 Nx2 N 1 the where N number of items in the test; the mean score on the test for all the testees (see page m 175); the standard deviation of all the testees' scores (see page x 176), and r11 = reliability. (Note that in this formula, x has to be squared.) ri1

e mean and standard deviation of scores on a language test containing 40 items is illustrated. The mean is found to b figures with the above formula, we obtain: r= "i "401 27 x 13 0.484 40 x 16.662 39 This formula is simple to use since (i) it avoids troublesome correlations and (ii), in addition to the number of items in the test, it involves only the test mean and standard deviation, both of which are normally calculated anyhow as a matter of routine. /

can be reliable without necessarily possessing, validity. However, reliability is clearly inadequate by itself if a test doe

10.3 Reliability versus validity

est. The fundamental problem, however, lies in the conflict between reliability and validity. The ideal test should, of cou )

skills tests as the oral interview. role-play, letter writing, etc. may have been b. high construct and face validity at the expense of reliability.

ective testing? For most purposes objective tests are vastly inferior to such more meaningful and communicative ta

function in this way.

wn to be valid. If the test writer tries to do the former, he or she will be faced with an impossible task because the very

first of all and then to establish ways of increasing its reliability.

iption of the various characteristics of performance at each level) enables the marker to identify precisely what he or s

in qualitative terms before later converting such judgements into

uch a rating scale is given in the previous Chapter: it is sufficient to emphasise here that reliability can be increased by m

10.4 Discrimination

other scores obtained in the test are known. Furthermore, tests on which almost all the candidates score 70 per cent

the test are then examined to determine the extent to which it

owers have already been established. Consequently, there will then be little need for concern if, for example, it is found


ed with finding out how well the students have mastered the syllabus and will hope for a cluster of marks around the


rror in a test. It is important to be aware of this grey, borderline area in test scores, especially when cut?off points (i.e.

scores where the important decisions about pass or fail are usually made.

rline area referred to in the previous paragraph will always remain. The situation can be improved consider:...bly,.,howeve

In the following graph showing the usual pattern of scores, the

will be uncertain about the large number of students whose scores fall within 2 per cent on either side of the pass/fail sc

h0 l
5 0 1

1 0

2 0

3 0


5 0

6 0

7 0

8 0

9 0

10 0

I wider range as shown on the following graph. It will still be impossible to be certain when distinguishing between a stude students in this borderline area will now be much smaller. The spread of scores will now appear in the graph like this:
20 15

_5 0

1 66

1 0

2 0


4 0

5 0

6 0

7 0


9 0


st scores be spread in this way and the test consequently make finer discriminations among the testees? Briefly, the ite

- extremely easy items very easy items - easy items fairly easy items - items below average difficulty level items of average difficulty level items above average difficulty level fairly dif difficult items very difficult items - extremely difficult items. -

10.5 Administration

e test are overlooked. The length of time available for the administration of the test is frequently misjudged even by exp

time to be allowed should be decided on as a result of a pilot administration of the test (i.e. a tryout of representative group of testees).

er from being used a second time. In some tests, the candidates are presented with a separate answer sheet, but too

1. You'd already left-by seven o'clock,


A. B. C. D.

didn't weren't hadn't haven't soon.

2. If you take swimming lessons, you A. will be able to swim

B. swim C. can swim D. shall have swum


3. Did anyone tell Tim A. off B. over C. on D. about

the careless error he made?

Put a cross (X) in the box containing the letter of the correct answer. 1. 2. 3. I

eparate answer sheets, however, greatly facilitates marking (through the use of a mask or key) and is strongly recomme large numbers of students are being tested. -1

of view of the people conducting the test, simply because they are so closely involved in their test that they are inclin i

i inning to construct a test, the test writer must make certain that the necessary equipment will be available in each c will he a high degree of standardisation in the test administration Clearly, it is useless to record ts or dialogues on tape if certain test cc I

aims together with a comprehensive (but simple) marking scheme.

nce caused by extraneous noise. The question of practicability, however, is not confined solely to aural/oral tests: such

available for the scoring of the test.

uld be printed or typewritten and appear neat, tidy and aesthetically pleasing. Nothing is worse and more disconcer

t o t he c a nd ida t e essential that all instructions are clearly written and that examples are given. Unless all students are able to follow th I hvienurbsnnetn eoddcurte ig e: ada shchll rw ia fw r s i

10.6 Test instructions

Put the correct pronoun in the blanks. Choose one of the following verbs to go in each blank space and put it in the correct te

rewritten and the phrase 'words like the following' (followed by examples) be used to replace `pronouns'; the second rubric should refe

given e.g. (1,7). The same applies to crosses, circles, underlining, etc. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid writing clumsy rubrics or rubrics consisting of complex sentences above the difficulty level being tested, e.g.

A ns w e r e a c h o f t he f o ll o w i n g q ue s t i o ns b y s e l e c t i ng t h e w o r d o r gr o up of w o rds w hic h be s t c om ple t es e ac h s e nt enc e f ro m t he wo rds

e n t e n c e s c h o o s e o n e o f t h e w o rds or gro ups of w o rds w hic h be s t c om ple t es t he s ent e nc e. W rit e i n the space shown by the dotted lin

One possible solution is to write the rubric in short sentences clearly and concisely:

C h o o s e t h e w o r d o r g r o u p o f w o r d s w h i c h b e s t c o m p l e t e s e a c h sentence. Each is lettered A, B, C, or D. Put a circle ro

Another solution is to use the students' first language when the test group is monolingual. However, this procedure elementary level where absolutely necessary.

it is very disturbing when it occurs in more widely used achievement and proficiency tests where no su ch help is ava ila ble. How

Complete each of the following sentences. Write in the blank space the letter of the correct word or words. The

sists of an i nco mpl et e s e nt enc e . T his inc om ple t e s ent e nc e is f oll ow e d by f i v e possible ways of completing it. Each way is labelled A, B,

e carefully considered in the writing of a rubric. For example, the word 'best' is used in certain instances instead of 'correct' because m 169

several 'correct' answers, although only one is really acceptable and clearly the required answer. Finally, all rubrics should be tried out on pilot groups in the same way in which items are tried out.

test being given, it is advisable for the test supervisor to work through a few examples with them. In one test of pro P

test paper. i

ncerned to construct sample items and rubrics to send to schools well in advance, together with sufficient detailed in

10.7 Backwash effects

sised. In Chapter 1 reference was made to oral examining, where it was pointed out that. in spite of possible unreliab backwash effects they have on the teaching that takes place before the test.

t of the re ading skills were cited as another example of the backwash effects of testing. Each element and skill has be

of the influence of testing on teaching is worth emphasising again, since the test constructor can so easily become to in test statistics and in other test criteria. A larger issue at stake is the effect of objective tests on language learning in general. Important questions are raised; many as yet remain

sise the negative aspects of language learning, encouraging teachers and students to place more emphasis on corre

in language learning.

hing programmes? How far is such an influence harmful or actually desii -able in certain situations? Again, what part d


es as the chief means of practising certain skills. While coaching undoubtedly plays a part in increasing test scores, goo

will produce little improvement in test results.

o point out on the other hand that testing has been one of the greatest single beneficial forces in changing the directio

10.8 Types of tests

used to denote the different types of language tests in use. Most test specialists, however, agree on the following broad d

This group can be further subdivided into class progress tests and (standardised) achievem

Achievement/attainment tests

ated fully by the class teacher in the light of his or her knowledge of the students, the programme which they have been

nd is just as important as an assessment of the teacher's own work as the student's own learning. Results obtained from

act as an incentive to more work, the progress test is chiefly concerned with allowing the students to show what they have


, )

20 15 10 5 1 2



lso achievement tests. These tests are based on what the students are presumed to have learnt - not necessarily

y any of the students being tested ore anyone can be appointed to any position of responsibility in connection with this type of test, though this principle obviously cannot always be applied to school examinations.

d that the test constructors are very familiar with the teaching and learning problems of the testees). Indeed, this

orms are established and comparisons made between performances of different students and different school 1 students taking the test another year. If the students have followed a structural approach to language learning, it is clearly unfair to administer a communicative achievement test at the end of their course. It is equally unfair to administer a structural-based test to those students who have followed a communicative 1

arget language. A good achievement test should reflect the particular approach to learning and teaching that has
Proficiency tests

e will be required to perform. Proficiency tests are in no way related to any syllabus or teaching programme; indee

i 0

ertain university or college course given in the medium of English? Does the student know enough English in orde

future course of study or job. A language aptitude test (or prognostic test) is designed to measure the student's
Aptitude tests probable

performance in a fo

not started to learn: i.e. it assesses aptitude for learning auch factors language. Language learning aptitude is a complex matter, consisting of s

s aspects according to the specific tasks for which a person is being trained: e.g. listening, interpreting, translat

Diagnostic tests

purposes: areas of difficulty are diagnosed in such tests so that appropriate remedial action can be taken later. S

vocabulary are not highly Significant in themselves and can only be

ot very suitable for diagnostic purposes. Tests of writing and oral production can be used diagnostically provide

progress tests and of teaching, the teacher should always be alert to ever test. facet of achievement_reyealed in a class progress Note that diagnostic testing is frequently carried out for groups of

dents make a particular error, the teacher will not pay too much attention. However, if several students in the g
1 Notes and refere The English Language Testing Service (ELTS), The British Council ees


1 1 1

interpreting test scores

11.1 Frequency distribution i al of 20' may appear a high mark to some, but in fact the statement is virtually meaningless on its own. For exam I

Testee Mark 20 25 33 Testae Mark Rank 35 34 33 33 32 30 30 29 29 27 27 27 26 26 26 26 26 25 25 25 24 23 23


Mark Tally Frequency 1 2 3.5 (or 3=) 15 (or 3=) 5 6.5 (or 6=) 6.5 (or 6=) 8.5 (or 8=) 8.5 (or 8=) 11 (or 10=) 11 (or 10=) 11 (or 10=) 15 (or 13=) 15 (or 13=) 15 (or 13=) 15 (or 13=) 15 (or 13=) 19 (or 18=) 19 (or 18=) 19 (or 18=) 21 22.5 (or 22=)



37 36 35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 / / / / / 1/ /1 /// /// // / 2 2 3 5 3 1 2 1


29 25 30 26 19 27 26 32 34 27 27 29 25 23 30 26 22 23 33

26 24 26

22 20 19

22.5 (or 22=) 18 17 24 25 26 15

0 Total 26


symbol f denotes the frequency with which a score occurs. e been extremely difficult, in which case 15 may well be a very high mark.The symbol still exert a strange and powerful infl Numbers I means the sum of.

TABLE represent a pass mark is nevertheless both surprising and disturbing. 4 x f The tables on the previous page contain the imaginary scores of a group of 26 students on a particular test

35 35 x 1 34 34 x 1 66 33 x 2 32 32 x 1 ers (e.g. ////) are called tallies and arexincluded simply to illustrate the method of counting the frequency of score 60 30 2 58 29 x 2 Ifx _702 27 81 27 x 3 26 N 130 26 x 5 75 25 x 3 in the scale (as shown in the example): 24 24 x 1 46 23 x 2 22 x 1 22 these are shown. The usual classroom practice is that shown in the parentheses. Where statistical work is to be done 20 x 1 20 19 19 x 1 Total

occupy places 10, 11 and 12 in the list, averaging 11). 702 The following frequency polygon illustrates the distribution of the Ifx scores:

5at x = 702 is the total number of items which the group of 26 students got right between them. Dividing by N = 26 (as th
4 states), this obviously gives the average. 3.

dence between the mean (27) and the median (26). Such a close correspondence is not always common and has occu 2

11.3 Measures of

19 2 x

3 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

11.2 Measures of with measures of central tendency, this section is related to the range or spread of scores. The mean by itself enables central tendency


obtained by a group, but it tells us nothing at all about the candidates obtained: in thisand the is 26, asof marks. The mode refers to the score which most highest and lowest scores case it spread five testees h Mode

e way of measuring the spread of marks is based on the difference between the highest and lowest scores. Thus, if here (as in all cases involving even numbers of testees), there can obviously be no middle person and thus the score ha -

.e. 22. If the highest score, however, is only 39 and the lowest 29, the range is 10. (Note that in both cases, the mean m

Mean he arithmetical average: i.e. the sum of the separate scores divided by the total number of testees. The mode, median, Standard deviation The standard deviation (s.d.) is another way of showing the spread of I efficient measure of central tendency, but it is not always appropriate.

In the following Table 4 and formula, note that the symbol x is used to denote the score, N the number of t an the range, which simply describes the gap between the highest and lowest marks and ignores the information provide



One simple method of calculating s.d. is shown below: Ed2 s.d. N

N is the number of scores and d the deviation of each score from the mean. Thus, working from the 26 p 1. 2. 4. 5.

.find out the amount by which each score deviates from the mean (d); .square each result (d 2 ); 2
3. total all the results (1d ); .divide the total by the number of testees (Id2/N); and .find the square root of this result (VEd2 /N).

34 33 33 32 30 30 29 29 27 27 27 26 26 26 26 26 25 25 25 24 23 23 22 20 19 702

Mean Deviation (d)Squared (d2)

(Step 2)

(Step 1) 35 deviates from 27 by

1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 --3 4 4 5 7 8 (Step 3) Total (Step 4) s.d. (Step 5) s.d. s.d.


432 26

\hich /16.62 4.077 4.08

Note: If deviations (d) are taken from the mean, their sum (taking account 'of the minus sign) is zero + 42 42 = 0. This affords a useful check on the calculations involved here. 4.08, for example, shows a smaller spread of scores than, say, a standard deviation of 8.96. If the aim of the test is

ng a fairly narrow spread will be quite satisfactory provided it is associated with a high average score. However, if the te then a broad spread will be required.

1 ent groups. If, for example, the standard deviation on a certain test is 4.08 for one class, but 8.96 on the same test f

11.4 Item analysis

edge of how far those objectives have been achieved by a particular test. Unfortunately, too many teachers think

the performance of the students as a group, thus (in the case of class progress tests) informing the teacher about the effectiveness of the teaching; the performance of individual students; and the performance of each of the items comprising the test.

many test results can show not only the types of errors most frequently made but also the actual reasons for the error 1 indicating definite lines on which remedial work can be given.

ther changes or else adapting them for future use. It is thus useful to identify those items which were answered correc

for testing.

All items should be examined from the point of view of (1) their difficulty level and (2) their level of discrimination
Item difficulty

particular item proved in the test. The index of difficulty (FV) is generally expressed as the fraction (or percentage)


d N the number of students taking the test. Thus,

ipin out

of 26 students tested obtained the correct answer for one o

FV= 20 =77 26

for which one is testing), the facility value of a large number of individual items will vary considerably. While aiming for t

age students; in other words, one student with a low standard may show that he or she is better than another studen


ult items may be necessary in order to motivate the good student, the inclusion of very easy items will encourage an

certain tensions surrounding the test situation.

d incorrectly by the poor students while the remaining items are answered incorrectly by the good students but corr

Item discrimination

badly on each item in the test. It is presupposed that the total score on the test is a valid measure of the student's


r' students badly on the same item, then the item is a good one because it distinguishes the 'good from the 'bad' in t 1 discrimination.

e whole test. However, while it is statistically most efficient to compare the top 271 per cent with the bottom 274

- -

1 Arrange the scripts in rank order of total score and divide into two groups of equal size (i.e. the top half and the bottom half). If there is an odd number of scripts, dispens.:. with one script chosen at random. 2 Count the number of those candidates in the upper group answering the first item correctly; then count the number of lower-group candidates answering the item correctly. 3 Subtriwt the number of correct answers in the lower group from the number of correct answers in the upper group: i.e. find the difference in the proportion passing in the upper group and the proportion passing in the lower group. 4 Divide this difference by the total number of candidates in one group: D Correct U - Correct L n

(D iscrimination index; n = Number of candidates in one group*: U = Upper half and L = Lower half. The index D is thu
between the proportion passing the item in U and L.)
5 Proceed in this manner for each item.

The following item, which was taken from a test administered to 40 students, produced the results shown: which the group of scores deviates from scores. It measures the de
I left Tokyo A. in on Friday morning. C. at D. by 9 20

15 - 6



rly it does not discriminate as well as an item with an index of .6 or .7. Discrimination indices can range from + 1 (= whole test) through 0 (= an item which does not discriminate in any way at all) to -1 (= an item which discriminate

Thus, for example, if all 20 students in the upper group answered a certain item correctly and all 20 students in the l the wrong answer, the item would have an index of discrimi of 1.0. ation

should carefully distinguish between n(= the number of candidates in either the U or L group) and N (= the number in the whole g previously. Obviousl n = 1/2 N. kti 1

the 20 students in the upper group got a correct answer and all the 20 students in the lower group answered it corre

Again, working from actual test results, we shall now look at the

of the following items has a high index of discrimination; the second is a poor item with a low discrimination index; and 1 High discrimination index: NEARLY When road, he D 18 - 3 1 5 20 = 20 ' 75 crossed Jim ran into a car. FV 71 0.525 40 = the

(The item is at the right level of difficulty and discriminates well.) 2 Low discrimination index: If the bell, the door would have been opened. you A. would ring C. .would have rung__ _ had rung D. .w e r e r i n g i n g


3 -0 3


1 5


3 .' 075 40 =

(iii this case, the item discriminates poorly because it is too difficult for everyone, both
3 Negative discrimination index: I don't think anybody has seen him. Yes, someone has. Yes, no one has. C. Yes, none has. D. Yes, anyone has.

4- 6


I= : - 2 20

- 10

FV =

1 0


= 0.25

(This item isdifficult and discriminates in the wrong 'direttion.)

was a trick item: in other words, the item was far too 'clever'. It is even conceivable that many native speakers would se


Note that items with a very high facility value fail to discriminate and thus generally show a low discrimi 181


1 1 who were given the following item had obviously mastered the use of for and since following the present perfect continu He's been living in Berlin D
1 9 1 9


0 -

2 0

Z FV o = 0.95

(The item is extremely easy for the testees and has zero discrimination.)
Item difficulty and

discrimination nd discrimination indices are usually recorded together in tabular form and calculated by similar procedures. Note again

-1-7V-= Correct U +Correct L 2n D Correct U - Correct L n

oF rV

owing table, compiled from the results of the test referred to in the preceding paragraphs, shows how these measures Item U
19 1 3 20 L U+L 38 29 32 2 1 2 1 3 1 25 1 7 1 0 1 4 3 1 4 20 6 8 3

.95 .73 .80 .53 .53 .77 .62 .42 .25 .35 .78 .35 .50 .15 .20

U-L 0 -3 8 15 9 1 9 9 -2 6 5

D 0 -.15 .40 .75 .45 .05 .45 .45

19 10
1 23 6 1 58 -4 6 4 13 2 6 1 1 0

1 7 13

10 15 15

1 1 12 1 3 14 15

4 10
1 8 1 2 1 45 7 3

.30 .25 .50 .40 .20 .30

8 4 6

10 Etc.



il to discriminate effectively. Thus, on the results listed in the table above, only items 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13 and 15 co

Extended answer analysis

w not only why these items have not performed according to expectations but also why certain testees have failed to a -


item analysis, or an extended answer analysis, a record should be made of the different options chosen by each studen
If I were rich, I A. shan't 13. won't U 1 L 4 U +L 5 work. 0 wouldn't

D. didn't







18 40

4 5

C. 14

D. 3 7 10 (20) (20) (40)


10 = 20


The item has a facility value of .45 and a discrimination index of .50 and appears to have functioned efficiently: the distractors attract the poorer, students but not the better ones.

The performance of the following item with a low discrimination index is of parti Mr Watson wants to meet a friend in Singapore this year. him for ten years. He 0 has known A. knew B. had known- - - C.-knows
A. B. U 7 L U+L 1 3 0 3 7

4 10 9 C. 1 13 5 D. 8 (20) (20) (40)


.325 15

wrong candidates (i.e. the better ones). On closer scrutiny, it will be found that both of these options may be correct i England but who now lives in Singapore, e.g.

He knew him (well) for ten years (while he_lived in England). The same justification applie

answers leads us to guess that possibly many had been taught to use the past perfect tense to indicate an action

John F. Kennedy A. is B. has been

born in 1917 and died in 1963.

0 was D. had been 183

U+L FV D .625 .05 I

A. B.
C. 13 12 25 D. 7 3 10 (20) (20) (40)

e item might be used again with another group of students, although distractors A and B do not appear to be pulling m

Distractor D in the following example is ineffective and clearly needs to be replaced by a much stronger distractor
l le complained that-he .

0 had seen
U A. 14

the same bad film the night before. C. has seen D. would see

B. was seeing L U+L

22 8 7 11 5 7 C. 0 0 0 (20) (20) (40)



.55 .30

and D in the following item is far too low: a full item ana7sis suggests only too strongly that they have been added sim Wasn't that your father over there?
A. was. 0Yes, hewas. . C. Yes, was he. Yes, it D. Yes, was it. U A. 7 L 13 U+L


B. 13
C. 0


F5 V. = 0

0 D. 0 0 0 (20) (20) (40)

D3 =0 .

7, ci

thus improved by replacing distractor C by Yes, he wasn't and D by Yes, it wasn't. The item is still imperfect, but the di correspond more closely to the level of attainment being tested.

tructor to focus once again on the content of the test, then item analysis is an extremely valuable exercise. Only wh nfluence on -

I 1

the students if, for example, their exclusion might lead to neglect in teaching what such item
1 1 . 5 M o de ra t i ng

ienced test writers are, they are usually so deeply involved in their work that they become incapable of standing back an

contain only the minimum of context

ated by a board consisting of linguists, language teachers, a psychologist, a statistician, etc. The purpose of such a boa

scoring of the test and with the evaluation of the test results.

facilities which the professional test writer has. Indeed, it is often all too tempting for the teacher to construct a test w eachers realise the importance of making a systematic analysis of the elements and skills they are trying to test and, ins

han one correct option. In addition, the short contexts of many objective items encourage ambiguity, a feature which c

attention of the test writer.

his or her own in a school, assistance in moderation from a friend, a spouse, or an older student will prove beneficial. It is

deal of time and trouble. Although the scoring of such tests is simple and straightforward, further effort is then spent dispense with test items once they have appeared in a test.

11.6 item cards and banks

with any relevant information) is by means of small cards. Only one item is entered on each card; on the reverse side o 185

ent or skill which they are intended to test, the items on the separate cards are grouped according to difficulty level, th Furthermore, the cards can be rearranged at any later date.

tem) being changed each time. If there is concern about test security or if there is any other reason indicatingI the n --?


us your secret soon. I hope you B. will tell C. have told D. would tell A. told I wish you A. told us your secret soon. C. have told D. would tell B. will tell


for the Are you going to wear your best party? A. clothes B. clothing C. cloths D. clothings ? What kind of A. clothes is your new suit made of? B. clothing C. cloth D. clothings beat

discrimination) (Listening


b e a t


bit beat


Student hears: Why are you going home?

A. At six o'clock. B. Yes, I am. C. To help my mother. D. By bus.

comprehension) Student reads:

Student hears: How are you going to David's?

Student reads: A. At six o'clock.

B. Yes, I am. C. To help him. D. By bus.


(Reading Two-thirds of the country's (fuel, endeavour, industry, comprehension/ energy) comes from imported oil, while the remaining vocabulary) one-third comes from coal. Moreover, soon the country will have its first nuclear power station.

, power) takes the form of imported oil, while the remaining one-third is coal. However, everyone in the country was made t

Items rewritten in this way become new items, and thus it will be necessary to collect facility values and discrimination indices again.

nd evaluated. In any case, however, the effort spent on constructing tests of English as a second or foreign language is n


Selected bibliography

Trinity College, London losed tests and examinations in English as a second/foreign language Spoken English as a Foreign or Second Language: 12 grades Associated Examining Board (AEB)
Test in English for Educational Purposes (TEEP) Written English (Intermediate)

University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate

Association of Recognized English Language Schools Preliminary English Test (PET) Examination Trust (AET) First Certificate in English (FCE) _Certificate of Proficiency in.English (CPE)
Diploma of English Studies (DES) School Certificate and GCE (Overseas Centres): English British Council/University of Cambridge Local Examinations Language ARELS Oral Examinations: Preliminary,-- Hig h er Certificate, Diploma



English Language Testing Service

Universityof London

City and Gads of London Institute

Communication in Technical English Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

0 Level English Language Syllabus B

Educational Testing Service (Princeton, New Jersey, USA) Books and articles Aitken. K G 1977 Using doze English Language Teaching Development Unit (ELTDU) procedure as an overall language proficiency test. TESOL Quarterly 1 1(1): 59-67

Aitken, K G 1979 Techniques for assessing listening comprehension in second languages. Audio-Visual Language Journal 17: 175-81 ard (International) Limited (ESB) Oral Assessments in Spoken English as an Acquired Language General Medical Council (GMC) The PLAB Test Alderson, J C 1978 A study of the doze procedure with native and non-native speakers of English. University of Edinburgh PhD thesis Institute of Linguists Educational Trust Alderson, J C and Hughes, A (eds.) 1981 Issues in Examinations in English as a Foreign Language: Levels 1, Language Testing. ELT Documents III. British Council 2. 3 and 4 Allen 1 P B and Davies, A (eds.) 1977 Testing and Certificates in English as a Foreign Language: Preliminary,
Grade I and Grade II

Scale and Test Battery

experimental methods. Edinburgh Course in Applied Linguistics vol 4. Oxford University Press

oint Matriculation Board (JMB) J 1971 A technique for measuring reading comprehension and readability. English Language Teaching Journal 25(2): 178-82 Anderson,
Test in English (Overseas)

Diplomas in English as a Foreign Language: Intermediate Diploma and Final Diploma

London Chamber of Commerce Anderson, J 1976 Psycholinguistic experiments in foreign language testing. University of Queensland Press. and Industry (LCCI)
English for Commerce: Elementary Stage, Intermediate Stage, and Higher Stage Beardsmore, H B 1974 Testing oral fluency. IRAL 12(4): 317-26 Spoken English for Industry and Commerce (SEFIC)

North West Regional Examinations Board/North Western Bensoussan, M 1983 Dictionaries and tests of EFL dvissin, Council for Further Education English as a Second Language: 2 versions/levels reading comprehension. English Language Teaching Journal 37(4): 341-5 Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations (Oxford) Brown, G 1977 Listening to spoken English. Longman University of Oxford Delegacy's Examinations in English as Brumfit, C J 1984 Communicative Methodology in Language a Foreign Language: Preliminary Level Certificate and Teaching. Cambridge University Press Higher Level Certificate

reign Language (Syllabus L and Syllabus C) and English Language (NCE): Elementary, Intermediate, Higher Intermediate and Advanced

Burstall, C 1969 The main stages in the development of Pitman Examinations Institute (PEI) language tests. In Stern, H H (ed.) Languages and the Young School Child. Oxford University Press, 193-9 Burt, M K and Kiparsky. C 1972 The Gooficon: a repair

Royal Society of Arts Examinations Board (RSA)

manual for English. Newbury House, Rowley, Massachusetts English as a Foreign Language: Stage 1, Stage II and Stage Canale. M and Swain, M 1980 Theoretical Bases of III

mmunicative Use of English as a Foreign Language:Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing. Applied Linguistics 1: 1-47 Basic, Intermediate and Advanced



Carroll, B J 1980 Testing Communicative Performance.Henning, G H et. al. 1981 Comprehensive Assessment of Pergamon Language Proficiency and Achievement Among Learners of English as a Foreign Lang Chen, Z and Henning, G 1985 Linguistic and cultural bias 15(4): 457-66 in language proficiency tests. Language Testing 2(2): 180-191 Hughes, A and Lascaratou, C 1982 Competing criteria for Clark J L D 1972 Foreign Language Testing: Theory and gravity. English Language Teaching Journal 63(3): 175-82 error

Practice. Centre for Curriculum Development, Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Hughes, A and Porter, D (eds.) 1983 Current Developments in Language Testing. Academic Press Clark, J L D (ed.) 1978 Direct Testing of Speaking Proficiency: Theory and Practice. Educational Testing Service, Princeton Hughes, A and Porter, D (eds.) Language Testing. (Journal published by Edward Arnold in June a Cohen, A D 1980 Testing Language Ability in the Classroom. Newbury House, Rowley, Massachusetts Ibe, M D 1975 A comparison of doze and multiple-choice Crocker, A C 1969 Statistics for the Teacher (or How to Put Figures in their Place). Penguin tests for measuring the English reading comprehension of southeast Asian teachers of 6(2): 24-32. SEAMEO Regional Language Centre, Singapore Davies, A (ed.) 1968 Language Testing Symposium. Oxford University Press

ge Testing (Survey Articles Nos. 3 and 4). In Kinsella, V Jones, Language Teaching and 1975 Testing Language Proficiency. Center for Applied Linguist (ed.) R L and Spolsky, B (eds.) Linguistics Abstracts vol. 2: 127-59. Cambridge University

Press Lado, R Guide to English Davies, S and West, R 1984 The Pitman1961, 1964 Language Testing: the Construction and Use of Foreign Language Language Examinations 2nd edn. Pitman Lee, Y P and Low, G D 1981 Classifying tests of language use. Taper presented at 6th AILA World Congress, Lund, Douglas, D 1978 Gain in reading proficiency in English as a Foreign Language measured by three doze scoring Sweden methods. Journal of Research in Reading 1(1):.257,73 Lee, Y P, Fok, C Y Y, Lord, R, and Low, G 1982 New Directions in Language Testing. Perg Ellis, R 1984 Communication strategies and the evaluation

Lukmani, Y 1E-32 Journal 38(1): 39-44 of communicative performance. English Language Teaching The communicational testing of reading. English Language Teaching Jou

Moller, A 1975 Validity in Proficiency Testing, ELT Finocchiaro, M and Sako, S 1983 Foreign Language Testing: A Practical Approach. Regents, New York Documents 3: 5-18. British Council Morrow, K E 1977 Techniques of Evaluation for a Notional Fok, A, Lord, R, Low, G, T'sou B K, and Lee, Syllabus. Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Reading (for the Royal Society Hong Kong orking Papers in Linguistics and Language Teaching. Special Issue on Language Testing, No. 4, Language Centre, University ofof Arts) Morrow, K E 1979 Communicative Language Testing:

Gannon, P 1985 Assessing Writing: principles and practice of marking revolution or evolution. In Brumfit, C J and Johnson, K J (eds.) The Communicative Approach to Langu written English. Edward Arnold

gan, G 1983 Language problems of non-native speakers of English at Cambridge University.Communicative Syllabus Cambridge Munby, J L 1978 Bell Educational Trust, Design. Cambridge University Press

011er, J edn. Harper tests of New York Green, J A 1975 Teacher-Made Tests 2ndW 1972 Clozeand Row,second language proficiency and what they measure. Languag Oiler, J W 1979 Language Tests at School. Longman Oiler, J W.and Perkins, K 1978 Language in Education: R P 1984 Summaries of studies involving the Test of English as a Foreign Language, 1963-1982. Educational Hale, G A, Stansfield, C W. and Duran,

Testing Newbury House, Rowley, Massachusetts Oiler, J W and Streiff, V 1975 Dictation: a test of grammar?based e testing the tests. Service, Princeton, New Jersey

ni, M 1986 Interrelationships Among Three Tests of Language Proficiency: Standardized ESL, Cloze, and Writing. TESOL Quarterly 20(1): 97-109 Palmer, A S 1981 Testing communication. IRAL 10: 35-45 Palmer, A Harris, D P 1969 Testing English as a Second Language. McGraw-Hill, New York S 1981 Measures of achievement.

communication, incorporation, and integration for two classes of formal EFL learne Harrison, A 1983 A Language Testing Handbook. 12(1): 37-61 Macmillan Palmer, L and Spolsky, B (eds.) 1975 . Papers on Language Heaton, J B (ed.) 1982 Language Testing. Modern English Publications Hendrickson, J (ed.) Error Analysis Perkins, K 1980 Using Objective Methods of Attained Writing Proficiency to Discrim Testing, 1967-1974. TESOL, Washington, D. C. and Error Correction in Language Teaching. RELC Occasional Papers 10, SEAMEO Regional Language Centre, Singapore 189 _ _

Perren, G E (ed.) 1977 Foreign Language Testing: specialised bibliography. Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research

Portal, M (ed.) 1986 Innovations in Language Testing. NFER-Nelson Rea, P M 1978 Assessing language as communication: MALS Read, I A S (ed.) 1981 Directions in Language Testing, RELC Anthology, Series 9. SEAMEO Regional Language Centre, Singapore Richards, J C 1985 The Context of Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press Rivera, C 1984 Communicative Competence Approaches to Rivers, W M 1968 Teaching foreign-language skills. University of Chicago Press

al. New series, No. 3, Department of English, University of Birmingham

oficiency Assessment: Research and Application. Multilingual Matters, Clevedon . I

A Practical Guide to the Teaching of English as a Second or Foreign Language. Oxford University Press, New York

Schulz, R A 1977 Discrete-Point versus Simulated

unication Testing in Foreign Languages. Modern Language Journal 61(3): 91-101 Simmonds, P 1985 A survey of English language examinations. English Language Teaching Journal, 39(1): 33-42

how to use a language? An essay on the theoretical basis of language testing. Language Testing 2(2): 180-191 Spolsky, B with Murphy, P, Holm, W, and Ferrel,

2 Three Functional Tests of Oral Proficiency. TESOL Quarterly 6(3': 221-35 Stubbs, J B and Tucker, G R 1974 The Cloze Test as a Measure of English Proficiency. Modern Language Journal 58(5/6): 239 41

0 Grammatical errors and communication breakdown. TESOL Quarterly 14(1): 71-9

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a, J 1968 Problems in foreign language testing. Language Learning Special Issue, No. 3 Valette, R M 1977 Modern Language Testing 2nd edn. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York Valette, R M and Disick, R S 1972 Modern Language ork

formance Objectives and Individualisation. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Nevi Y


In d e x

Achievement tests 172 error-count method 148-149 Errors 149-150 Addition Error recognition items 39-40, 152 Error-count marking 148-149 impression method 147-148 mechan items 50 Administration 167-168 method 148-149 Essay-translation approach 15 Analytic marking 148 treatment of errors 149-150 Evaluation 7 Aptitude items 173 Matching items reading Attainment tests 171Extended answer analysis 182-185 Extensive reading 106 107-113 vocabulary 58-60 Backwash 170-171 Mean 175-176 Face validity 159-160 Banding Mechanical accuracy marking 148 149 compositions 145-146 Facility value 178-179 Median 175 oral interviews 98-100 Fragmented sentences 155 Mistakes 7, 149-150 Broken sentence items 49 Frequency distribution 174-175 Mode 175 Central tendency 175-176 Model Grading compositions 144-149 paragraphs 154 Moderating 186-187 Changing words 48-49 Grammar 9, 34-50 Motivation 7 Classification of tests 15 Group discussion 102-104 Multiple marking 147-148 Classroom tests 6 Multiple-choice items Impression marking 147-148 construction 27-40 Cloze procedure 16-17, 131-133 Combination items 50 Communicative approach 19-24 . .. Impure items 29 correct option 37-38 Index of difficulty 178-179 distractors 32-33 Completion items error recognition 39-40 Instructions 168-170 grammar 42-46 grammar 9 Integrative approach 16 listening 66-71 Intensive reading 106 reading comprehension 124-129 sentences, texts 156-157 spelling 151-152 reading 116-124 vocabulary 62-63 Interpretation of scores 174-188 spelling 151 stem 36-37 Intonation 68-69 vocabulary 52-28 Composition Items --general 136-150 writing 152-153 -setting 138-143 analysis 178-185 - -- titles 137-138 Objective testing 25-27 cards-and banks Concurrent validity 161-162 185-187 difficulty 178-179 Open-ended items 133 discrimination 179-182 Connectives 156 Oral production 88-104 (For types of items, see individual entries, e.g. addition, combination, multiple-choice) Construct validity 161 Oral interview 96-102 Content validity 160-161 Controlled writing 154-158 Pairing and matching items 49-50 Judgement skills 135 Conversations 90-92 . . Parallel test forms 163 Performance levels 21-23 - -Cursory reading 133-134 Language areas 9 Language elements 10-11 Phoneme discrimination 65-68 Definitions 62 Language skills 8, 10-11 Phonology 9 Diagnostic testing 6, 173 Lectures 82-87 Pictures Dialogues 69-71, 90-92 'listening comprehension 71-82 Length of texts 118 Dictation 17-18, 151 matching 110, 112 Linking sentences 15 - speaking 92-96 Difficulty index 178-179 Listening comprehension 64-87 writing 142-143 Discrimination 165, 179-182 Practicability 167-168 Dispersion 176-178 Mark/re-mark reliability 162 Predictive validity 161-162 Marking Problem solving 102-104 analytic method 148 Empirical validity 161-162 Error, test margin of 166 Production 11 compositions 144-149 191

Proficiency tests 172-173 Profile reporting 19-23, 163 Progress tests 171-172 Psychometric approach 16 Punctuation 135, 150-151

v validity 164-165 Role playing 102 104 Rubrics 168-170


Sampling 12, 51-52, 118 Scanning 133-134. Qualitative judgements 20-22 Scores 174-188 Scoring Range 176 oral interviews 98-100 Rating scale Sentence matching 107-110 compositions 145-146 Sets 58 oral interviews 98-100 Skimming 133-134 Reading Speaking 21-23, 88-104 extracts (for writing) 155-156 reading aloud-8v= .. Specifications 13 skills 105-106 Spelling 135. 151-152 test specifications 22-23 Split-half method 163-164 Rearrangement items Spoken language 64-65 grammar 41-42 Spread of scores 166-167 reading 129-131 Standard deviation 176-178 vocabulary 61 Standards 7 Recognition 11 Statements 69-71 Redundancy 64 Stress 68-69 Register 153-154 Structuralist approach 15 Reliability 12, 162-165 Style 152-153 Subjective testing 25-26 istening comprehension 65 mark/re-mark 162 -parallel test forms 163 profile reporting 163 Synnoonnyymmss 61 --split half-method 163-164 test/re-test 162
----, . , - , - ---

Teaching 5, 170 171 Test types 106 107, 171 173 Test/re-test reliability 162 Transformation items 46-48 Translation 18 19 Traps 14 True/false tests 113 116

Usage 34-50 Validity 159-162 concurrent 161 construct 161 content 160-161 empirical 161-162 face 159-160 predictive 161 v reliability 164-165 Visuals istening comprehension 71 82 matching 110, 112 speaking 92-96 writing 142-143 Vocabulary 9, 51-63


Talks 82-87, 102

Word formation 61 Word matching 107 Writing 135-158 levels 136 tasks 136

i 1